Good catch from Cullen Roche at Pragmatic Capitalism: Rail data, which is some of the most reliable economic data there is, is rapidly turning south.
Now just 12 of the 20 categories of goods that get shipped by rail are positive year on year.
From the AAR:
“Twelve of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 39 per cent; metallic ores, up 16.7 per cent, and motor vehicles and equipment, up 15.3 per cent. The groups showing a significant decrease in weekly traffic included farm products excluding grain, down 28.1 per cent; coal, down 18.2 per cent, and grain, down 16.3 per cent.”
It’s worth noting that rail carloads have been weak all year, but people have been attributing that to the collapse in coal demand due to the warm winter.
But when only 12 out of the 20 categories are up year-over-year, it becomes harder to just attribute to an unusual circumstance.
And of course, this isn’t the only sign of a slackening economy.
Initial claims are spiking, housing numbers have had a string of clunkers, and generally the data hasn’t been meeting estimates, as shown by the Citi Economic Surprise Index.
It’s too early to totally freak out, but you’d be naive to not look at these indicators seriously.