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Are Tank Car Stocks Breaking Out Or Breaking Bad?

Tickers in this article: ARII CNI CSX GBX NSC RAIL TRN UNP WAB

Emily Smykal, Kapitall: What do Walter White and tank car stocks have in common? An interest in hazardous materials, perhaps. 

AMC Networks (AMCX) – and its shareholders – have plenty to smile about after the thrilling finale to Breaking Bad on Sunday.

If you're like me and have been addicted to AMC's Breaking Bad (pun intended), the show may have been the first time you paid any attention to tank cars. No, not this. I'm talking about this. Rail tank cars are actually pretty common in the US, and they're not just used for transporting methylamine.

Tank cars also deliver crude oil extracted across the US, including the oil produced from hydraulic fracturing – fracking. So you could say rail tank cars are one of the reasons why US domestic energy production is up 14% compared to 2005. 

US railroads transported 108,605 carloads of crude in the quarter ended June 30, a record for crude rail shipments in a single quarter.

But also this year there have been some justifiably heightened concerns around the safety of transporting hazardous materials, like crude oil, via tank car. And considering that tank cars can implode like this, additional safety measures may not be too much to ask. 

But with the shale oil and gas boom steamrolling ahead, tank car stocks, and the railroads that utilize their products, may see further growth. 

Earlier this year we compiled a list of tank car manufacturers that looked poised to benefit from increasing transportation of crude by rail. We decided to re-examine these stocks, as well as some rail companies, to see how they've performed so far this year. 

Click on the interactive charts below to see data over time. 

Below are the five tank car manufacturers we profiled at the beginning of the year, sorted in order of highest performance in the year to date. Use the list as a starting point for your own analysis.