The weekly railroad traffic data collected by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) did not have a particularly difficult comp in January. You may recall that in January 2009, it seemed as if the world had stopped as retailers and suppliers were crushed by excess inventory that needed to be burned off. Those same businesses allegedly just stopped placing orders leading to the collapse in rail volumes during November and December of 2008 in the below graph. January 2009 was no better.
2010 - Jan 14 - AAR Data
So January 2010, even if still in the teeth of a recession, should at least have the benefit of not dealing with an excess inventory problem. It should have been better than January 2009.
But alas. In fact, the first week of January is comping well below the worst average month in all of 2008 or 2009 (or any month for YEARS, for that matter). Green shoots?
From the AAR's weekly rail data release (emphasis added):
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jan. 14, 2010 – The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight rail traffic is off to a slow start in 2010 with U.S. railroads originating 236,796 carloads for the week ending Jan. 9, 2010, down 12.4 percent compared with the same week in 2009 and down 28 percent from the same week in 2008. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR will now be reporting 2010 weekly rail traffic with year-over-year comparisons for both 2009 and 2008.Helicopter Ben, your authotization to continue debasing has arrived. Continue your destructive ways freely.