US weekly chemical railcar traffic falls 0.4%

03 April 2008 18:36  [Source: ICIS news]

Railcar traffic fallsTORONTO (ICIS news)--US chemical railcar traffic for the week ended 29 March fell 0.4% from the same week last year but shipments rose 0.6% for the full month, compared with March 2007, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said on Thursday.


Chemical railcar loadings for the week totalled 32,740, compared with 32,886 for the same week in 2007, the association said.


Carloads of chemicals for the month of March rose by 695 carloads, to 125,391 carloads, compared with March last year. 


Total chemical railcar loadings in the year-to-date period through 29 March came to 403,071, up 2.7% from the same period in 2007.


The AAR did not cite reasons for the changes in chemicals shipments.


Analysts consider rail shipment data to be a good early indicator of current chemical industry activity. Railroads transport more than 20% of the chemicals produced in the US.


Railcar loadings of all 19 commodities tracked by the AAR were 332,933 for the week, up 5.6% from 315,305 in the same week last year.


For the month of March, carloads were down 0.1%, to 1.3m carloads, compared with March 2007.


Coal and grain were the bright spots for US rail traffic in March 2008, rising 5.9% and 13.9%, respectively, from March 2007.


On the downside, a strike at a key automotive parts supplier and reduced sales in the auto sector resulted in a 19.4% decline in rail carloads of motor vehicles and equipment.


Overall railcar loadings for the 19 commodity categories listed by the AAR reached 4.17m year to date through 29 March, up 1.1% when compared with the same period of 2007, the association said.


“Recent disappointing economic news helps explain why rail traffic is not more robust,” said AAR senior vice president John Gray. 


He pointed to weaker construction and consumer spending as well as the fragile US residential housing market.


On the other hand, the weak US dollar made exports less costly for overseas buyers, helping to boost export shipments of grain, coal and other commodities, he said.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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