Rail Traffic: Warren Buffett's Favorite Economic Indicator

by: Mark J. Perry
In this CNBC interview, Warren Buffett was asked to identify the single most important economic statistic he would choose if he was stranded on a desert island for a month and could only get one set of economic numbers. Buffett reported that his favorite “desert island indicator” would be freight car loadings.

The likely reason that Buffett is so fond of rail traffic as his “desert island indicator” is that it measures the amount of raw materials, inputs, and supplies moving around the country every week, and this should accurately predict the future direction of the overall economy. After all, the inputs transported by rail eventually get processed into inventory, final output, and goods for sale.

In that case, Buffett must be pretty pleased with yesterday's American Railroad Association’s (AAR’s) weekly report, which shows that rail traffic in the United States is booming.