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Key measure of U.S. chemical demand climbs-survey
Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:06pm ET

NEW YORK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Chemical shipments on U.S. railroads rose last week, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) on Thursday.

Chemical shipments on trains, called rail car loadings, are a key measure of demand for products ranging from plastics to fertilizers.

For the week ended Aug. 19, chemical rail car loadings totaled 29,596, up 1 percent from a year earlier.

The slight rise in shipments followed a year-on-year fall of 1.9 percent in the prior week and a 7.1-percent increase the week before that.

Rail shipments often provide an early glimpse of broader trends for both the chemical industry and manufacturing, according to analysts.

Comparisons to last year will become easier in the coming months because farm chemical demand is fading with the end of the North American growing season, analysts have said.

In the first half of this year, farm chemical demand was much weaker versus 2005 because record energy prices pushed up costs for farmers.

In addition, demand in the second half of 2006 could be much higher since massive damage from hurricanes suppressed demand last summer, analysts have said.

Still, rail car loadings year-to-date were down 2 percent to 976,032 from levels a year ago, according to the weekly data from AAR, a leading railroad trade association.

Rail car loadings represent about 21 percent of chemical volumes by tonnage. Trucks, barges and pipelines carry the rest.

Source: Reuters

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