By Colin Kellaher

 

North American rail traffic fell 18.7% last week, ending a string of six straight weeks of declines topping 20% amid nascent signs that the coronavirus pandemic may be loosening its stranglehold on the economy, data from the Association of American Railroads showed.

Carload volume tumbled 26.2% for the week ended May 23 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, with double-digit declines across eight of the 10 commodity groups tracked.

Intermodal traffic fell 10.8% for the week, the trade group said Wednesday.

In the week ended May 16, North American rail traffic declined 20.9%. For the first 21 weeks of the year, North American traffic is down 11.4%, compared with a year-to-date decline of 11% reported a week earlier.

The AAR said U.S. rail traffic slid 19.2% last week, as carloads plunged 27.5% and the volume of intermodal containers and trailers fell 11.2%. However, the AAR said 75% of the carload categories it tracks showed modestly higher loadings last week than the week before, while intermodal originations were higher than in any of the previous 11 weeks.

"While we can't yet say whether rail traffic and, by extension, the economy, have turned a corner, these are all encouraging signs," said John Gray, AAR senior vice president. "As areas across the country begin to reopen over the next several weeks, perhaps we can start looking for light at the end of what has become a rather long tunnel."

U.S. rail traffic is now down 12.8% for the year to date, the AAR said, compared with a year-to-date decline of 12.5% reported a week earlier.

Canadian rail traffic fell 15.2% last week, with carloads plummeting 22.5% and intermodal units down 5.8%. Canadian rail traffic is down 7.1% for the first 21 weeks of the year.

Mexican rail traffic tumbled 24.7% for the week, with carloads falling 26% and intermodal units sliding 23.2%. Mexican rail traffic is now down 8.7% for the year, the AAR said.

 

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

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 27, 2020 13:32 ET (17:32 GMT)

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