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Downturn in freight volume casts doubt on economic optimism

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in Small Business Tax

No evidence could be found in the latest rail volume reports of the federal government’s recent predictions that the economy would improve soon.

Freight rail traffic was down 23 percent in April from a year earlier and down 24.5 percent for the week ending May 2, the Association of American Railroads reported.

The grim news about rail volumes follows by days a congressional hearing during which Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he saw “green shoots” indicating the economy is on the upswing.

“We continue to expect economic activity to bottom out, then to turn up later this year,” Bernanke told the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Freight shipments have been dropping by double-digits every month since December. Carload freight was down 18.2 percent in the first four months of this year. Intermodal volume fell 17.9 percent in April compared with one year earlier.

“Unfortunately, it’s hard to find much in rail traffic data in April to support the idea that the economy is starting to see green shoots,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “It may still just be weeds.”

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