The slowdown that North American railroad companies had been bracing for in crude oil shipments has turned into a rout, with volumes falling faster than executives had predicted.
With energy companies scaling back drilling after prices for the commodity fell about 50 percent since July, industry executives and analysts anticipated that demand for hauling crude and extraction materials such as frac sand and pipes would slow after a four-year surge. They didn’t expect it to slow this much this fast.
“The impact is occurring more quickly than the rails originally projected to investors,” said Matt Troy, an analyst with Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “The consensus view was that very high double-digit growth would moderate to low double digits, and as we have seen in recent weeks we’ve broken that floor and in some cases gone negative.”
Rail stocks and tank-car leasing are reflecting the dwindling traffic. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Railroads Index posted its biggest weekly decline since October and lessors’ rates for oil cars have fallen by about a third in the last six months, Cowen & Co. said in a report on Friday.