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Economy in Brief

Railcar Loadings, Truck Tonnage & Air Freight
by Tom Moeller August 28, 2006

Railcar loadings through July grew 2.7% y/y, according to Atlantic Systems. Though y/y growth has been firm, the six month growth in loadings eased to 1.4% though some pickup may be evident in the weekly data for August.

Intermodal loadings (containers & trailers on flat cars) grew 5.4%. That rate of growth is roughly half the rate during 2004 and is down from 7.0% last year. Carload tonnage (which includes bulk shipping of materials) grew 0.8% y/y after a slight decline last year and 1.8% growth in 2004.

During the last ten years there has been a 37% correlation between the y/y growth in total freight car loadings and the change in factory production.

The truck tonnage index from the American Trucking Association fell 1.6% y/y during July. The index level improved some 3.0% from a low in March, but forward momentum has been constrained since last year's highs.

During the last ten years there has been a 44% correlation between the y/y growth in the truck tonnage index and the change in factory production.

Air Freight Revenue Ton-Miles generated within the U.S. grew 5.0% y/y through June, according to the Air Transport Association. That growth is quite respectable but much of its strength owes to a favorable comparison to a weak period last year. The six-month growth rate of U.S. air-freight dropped to a negative 7.5%.

During the last ten years there has been a 38% correlation between the y/y growth in Air Freight and the change in factory production.

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke remarks at the Kansas City Fed's Annual Economic Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming can be found here.

U.S. Industry Statistics July June May 2005 2004 2003
Railcar Loadings 2.7% 5.9% 5.4% 2.5% 4.8% 2.5%
Truck Tonnage Index -1.6% -1.1% -1.2% 2.3% 5.9% 3.0%
ATA Domestic Freight Revenue Ton-Miles -- 5.0% 8.0% -0.4% 5.2% 1.2%
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