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On good days, the trains run on time, but every day the cash forecast arrives on schedule at $2.4 billion Amtrak, the Washington-based passenger rail service. Amtrak takes forecasting seriously. For example, if the price of diesel fuel jumps 50 cents a gallon in the futures market, that information goes into a home-built spreadsheet and then a forecasting model. The rise in the cost of diesel will increase what Amtrak pays to run its trains, explains treasurer Dale Stein, so the model revises the expense forecast to show how that is likely to increase cash outflows.

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