Sep 15, 2019

U.S. railroad traffic and freight volume shipments slump

The River Subdivision of CSX Transportation Rail Line near Saugerties, New York. Photo: Getty Images

Railroad traffic and freight volume shipments are dropping below levels seen around this same time in 2016, 2017 and 2018, data from the Association of American Railroads shows.

Why it matters: An efficiency strategy called precision scheduled railroading (PSR) could be North American railroads' "last hope for continued profit growth," Barron's magazine reports — amid concerns of global economic slowdowns, a trade war and recession across the U.S., particularly in Michigan, Hawaii, Montana, Maryland and Louisiana.

  • PSR "uses departure schedules and point-to-point delivery methods to achieve low operating rations and consolidate railroad networks," according to breakthroughfuel.com.
  • In July, rail transportation and real estate company CSX "reported a drop in its last quarter's revenue and warned of a decline in the year's freight volumes," writes Barron's — but CSX shares have recovered nearly half of the 20% they lost following the company's warning.

The bottom line, per Barron's: "If the magic of precision scheduled railroading has only a few more percentage points of operating profit to deliver to railroads like Union Pacific, then profit growth will have to come from increased shipping volumes and price increases. And those growth drivers are not moving in the right direction."

Go deeper: The decline of American coal is taking a toll on the railroad industry

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Economists see sustained low growth, but no recession

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) became the latest international economic organization to cut its global growth forecast, announcing Thursday that it's dropping expected growth to 2.9% this year, the slowest since the financial crisis.

Why it matters: The designation follows similar moves from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and a slew of central banks and ratings agencies that slashed their estimations for the world's economic growth this year as data continues to worsen.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019

CEO confidence sinks to lowest level since 2016

President Trump delivers opening remarks at the beginning of a policy forum with CEOs. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Confidence among the nation's top CEOs saw the biggest quarter-over-quarter drop in 7 years and hit a level not seen since the 4th quarter of 2016, according to a closely-watched survey by the Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: Corporate America's level of optimism has dramatically receded from the levels when President Trump took office. Amid heightened trade war uncertainty, CEOs have downgraded expectations for hiring, capital spending and sales growth — potentially exacerbating fears that the record economic expansion could be coming to an end.

Go deeperArrowSep 18, 2019

Report: Key global economic indicators hit lowest level since 2016

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Headline economic indicators have hit their lowest levels since spring 2016 as the global economy sinks into a "synchronised stagnation" period, research by the Brookings Institution and the Financial Times published Sunday shows.

Why it matters: The Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery research shows weak growth in some major economies and "essentially no growth or even mild contraction" ahead of International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington, D.C., this week — the first with Kristalina Georgieva as the IMF’s new managing director.

Go deeperArrowOct 14, 2019