Overall Volumes Up; Rails Down

The DOT index measures changes in output of services by the rail, air, and motor carrier industries. The index was 111.5 in January. The index also showed a 2.4% increase from the December 2007 level.

In other news, rail carloadings for the 10th week of 2008 (ending March 8th) decreased 2.1% from the same week a year earlier.

Rail results were mixed. Forest products were down 15.7% while agriculture gained 4.2%. Other declining commodities included motor vehicles (down 12.4%) and non-metallic minerals (off 13.8%). On the positive side, coal was up a slight 0.4% and metals moved up 0.8%.

Among the railroads, only Burlington Northern Santa Fe showed an increase year-on-year in the 10th week (up 5.2%, excluding intermodal).

Intermodal originations dropped for all North American Class 1 railroads. Overall, US originated freight fell 15.1% for US railroads and 6.6% for Canadian railroads.

Equity analyst firm Stifel Nicolaus suggests the earlier Chinese New Year holiday may account for some of the result. In 2007, the holiday fell a week and a half later in the Western calendar.

US exports to Europe may have helped the eastern US intermodal volumes outpace the West Coast originations. In Canada, intermodal volumes are strong, up 6.7% year-on-year.

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