US rail freight carloads tell a different story about the US economy.


Today a very smart friend was chatting to me about the unhealthy current state of shipping container movements, meltdowns and park-ups.

My friend was quite worried about this as it is a fairly good indicator of global economic health.

I agreed with her that the optics were not so great but then again the rail freight carload numbers in the US were even worse.

In the US, there is more railway rolling stock (and parts) being manufactured than before, so it’s not as though it’s a dying form of industrial transportation. So, why then in February of this year did rail freight movements look like they turned below their lowest point in the last 20 years or so?

Without adjusting for seasonality, carloads were down around 10% below the loads in the darkest days following the GFC.

Either way, this does not track with Donald Trump’s claims of a stellar economy. Then again, US$74 trillion in total US debt on US GDP of US$21 trillion can pay for a lot of railcars, even if they are not sweating hard.


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