Rail Cargo Posts First Gain in Two Years as Consumer Goods Surge

Rail Cargo Posts First Gain in Two Years as Consumer Goods Surge

Caption: Rail Cargo Posts First Gain in Two Years as Consumer Goods Surge

U.S. railroads are back, with freight volume posting the first quarterly gain in two years.


Carloads increased 2.8% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, with only a few days remaining in the period, according to American Association of Railroads weekly reports compiled by Susquehanna Financial Group. Consumer spending fueled the gain as people bought more goods instead of spending on dining out or attending concerts during the coronavirus pandemic. That offset lower volume for oil, coal, autos and other products.

Intermodal cargo — items shipped in containers that move by ship, rail and truck — is leading the rebound, rising slightly more than 10%. The surge reflects stronger demand for electronics, patio furniture and exercise equipment as consumers are stuck at home.