By Colin Kellaher

 

North American rail traffic tumbled 20.5% last week, marking the fifth straight weekly drop of at least 20%, as large swaths of the economy remain frozen by the coronavirus pandemic, data from the Association of American Railroads showed.

Carload volume plunged 27.2% for the week ended May 9 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, with declines across all 10 commodity groups tracked, including a 90.2% drop in carloads of motor vehicles and parts.

Intermodal traffic fell 13.8% for the week, the trade group said Wednesday.

In the week ended May 2, North American rail traffic was down 21.2%. For the first 19 weeks of the year, North American traffic is now down 10.4%, compared with a year-to-date drop of 9.9% reported a week earlier.

In a recent sector report, Moody's Investors Service said it expects full-year North America rail freight will fall by at least 15% on top of last year's decline of 4%.

"Continuing declines in coal shipments will weigh heavily on the sector, while relatively stable carloads of agricultural products and more modest declines in chemicals mitigate the overall decline in freight in the sector," the ratings agency said, adding that soaring unemployment could dampen consumer demand, putting pressure on intermodal volumes.

The AAR said U.S. rail traffic fell 22.1% last week, with carloads dropping 28.4% and the volume of intermodal containers and trailers down 16%.

U.S. rail traffic is now down 11.9% for the year to date, the AAR said, compared with a year-to-date decline of 11.4% reported a week earlier.

Canadian rail traffic fell 12% last week, as carloads fell 21.1% and intermodal units slipped 0.9%. Canadian rail traffic is down 6.2% for the first 19 weeks of the year.

Mexican rail traffic plunged 33.2% for the week, with carloads declining 36.1% and intermodal units falling 29.8%. Mexican rail traffic is now down 6.7% for the year so far, the AAR said.

 

Write to Colin Kellaher at colin.kellaher@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 13, 2020 13:24 ET (17:24 GMT)

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