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Uptrend in coal rail traffic, production continues in 4th week of 2017

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Uptrend in coal rail traffic, production continues in 4th week of 2017

Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week that ended Jan. 28 rose 12.8% year over year to 87,208 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads.

Year-to-date coal rail traffic was up 11.9% through the week, while overall rail traffic posted a 3.3% year over year increase to 529,696 carloads and intermodal units.

"For most of last year, coal carloads were down sharply, but for the past couple of months, including January, they've been the major force behind rail carload gains," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. "We can probably expect continued uncertainty in energy markets going forward, but we're hopeful that improving macro-economic fundamentals will drive improvement in rail volumes for many commodity categories this year."

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BNSF Railway Co.'s coal shipment volumes clocked in at 36,869 carloads in the week that ended Jan. 28, down from last week's 40,417 carloads, but up 5.7% compared to the year-ago week.

Union Pacific Corp.'s coal shipment volumes this week were at 23,842 carloads, also down from 24,412 carloads last week but up 9.2% compared to last year's weekly volume.

Eastern railroad CSX Transportation Inc.'s shipment volumes of coal stood at 15,570 carloads, up from the last week's 15,481 carloads, and recovered 17.7% compared to the same week in 2015.

Norfolk Southern Corp.'s coal shipment volumes totaled 20,700 carloads for the week, up from last week's 19,073 carloads, and surged 32.9% compared to the same week a year ago.

Kansas City Southern Railway Co.'s latest weekly coal shipment volume showed 3,857 carloads, down from 3,974 carloads the previous week. The railroad serves 10 U.S. states and Mexico.

US coal output climbs 17.7% YOY

Total U.S. coal production for the fourth week increased 17.7% year over year to 16.1 million tons compared to 13.7 million tons during the same period last year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

For the 52 weeks that ended Jan. 28, production continued to slide, falling 13.6% year over year to roughly 756.4 million tons, while year-to-date coal output improved 13.6% year over year to about 62.4 million tons through Jan. 28.

The western region saw its coal production reach 8.5 million tons through the week, climbing 16.8% year over year from the prior year's 7.3 million tons. Data for the western region covers Powder River Basin mines.

Coal output from Appalachian mines totaled 4.1 million tons this week, posting a 17.8% upturn from the year-ago week's 3.5 million tons.

The interior region also continued to post year-over-year gains, after it produced 3.5 million tons through Jan. 28, rising 19.7% against the previous year's 2.9 million tons. Interior region data covers mines in the Illinois Basin.

The EIA's production data is derived from rail carload estimates.

Data collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence from railroads indicates both cars originated on their lines during the week and cars received from a connecting railroad during the same week.