First Quarter 2012 Offers Positive Economics

The first quarter of 2012 is continuing with some positive economic news. The consumer confidence index increased 15% to 70.8 in February up from 61.5 the previous month—the highest in 12 months (source: The Conference Board).

The logistics industry added 10,600 employees in February, accounting for 4.7% of the overall net employment gains added (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Retail and food service sales rose in February to $407.8 billion, up 1.1%from the previous month (source: U.S. Census).

And in January, housing starts increased 1.5% to an annual rate of 699,000 units. Building permits (an indicator of future housing starts) rose 0.7%(source: U.S. DOC).

The following wrapup comes courtesy of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics:

Multimodal:
• Dow Jones Transportation index was down 1% during February (based on the stock performance of twenty large, well-known U.S. companies in the transportation industry, average of February 10th thru March 10th);

• The NASDAQ Transportation Index was up 1.5%in February (based on averaged share weights of NASDAQ-listed companies classified as transportation companies, average of February 10th thru March 10th)
DOT Freight Transportation Index fell 3.6%in January 2012 following an increase of 3.9% in December. The index’s reading of 109.7 was 1.7% higheryear-over-year (source: US DOT).

The February shipments index rose 2.5%over the previous month and increased 3.5%year-over-year. The February expenditures index increased 1.2%for the month, and increased 9.8%year over year (source: Cass Information Systems | Cassinfo.com).
(Based upon transportation dollars and shipments of Cass clients comprised of over 400 shipping companies)

Import Volumes
In January, the U.S. importedabout $233.4 billionof cargo. January U.S. imports have increased 2.1%in terms of value over the previous month and grew 8.4%year-over-year (Source: U.S. Census).

Export Volumes
In January, the U.S. exportedmore than $180.8 billionof cargo. January U.S. exports have increased 1.4%in terms of value over the previous month and grew 7.7%year-over-year. (Source: U.S. Census).

Import & Export Price Index
U.S. import prices increased 0.4%in February. The price index for imports was unchanged in the previous two months. The price index for U.S. exports also rose 0.4%in February after a 0.2% increase in January (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

• Total e-commerce sales for 2011 were estimated at $194.3 billion, an increase of 16.1% from 2010. Total retail sales in 2011 increased 7.9%from the previous year. E-commerce sales accounted for 4.6%of total sales in 2011 (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce).

U.S. Freight Rail Traffic
Railroad bulk carload freight in February 2012 decreased 2.9% from January 2012. Freight traffic in February fell 1.9% from February 2011, but was up 2.7% over February 2010 (source: AAR.org) (Report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units).

U.S. Intermodal Rail Traffic
Intermodal rail traffic in February 2012 was 2.4% higher than in February 2011 and 0.3% higher than January 2012 totals. Intermodal loadings have experienced year-over-year gains for 27 straight months (source: AAR.org) (Report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units).

Trucking
Over-the-Road Trucked Shipments rose 0.7% in February following a 1.7% decrease in January. Overall trucked shipments decreased 0.2% on a year-over-year basis (Source: Ceridianindex.com).
(From the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index which is based on real-time fuel consumption data for over the road trucking)

Trucking Volume
The ATA’s seasonally adjusted cargo index fell 4% in January. The for-hire truck tonnage index rose 3.6% year-over-year (source: American Trucking Association | Trucking.org)
The spot market for truckload freight in February surged 22% compared to the previous month, but was 6% lower year-over-year. Truck capacity rose 6.2% for the month, and was up 40% year-over-year (source: TransCore Freight Index | www.transcorefreightsolutions.com).

Air Cargo Traffic
Global air freight in January fell 8% from one year ago and was down 2.5% from the previous month. North American air freight in January fell 4% year-over-year (source: IATA.org).
(Global air freight covers international and domestic scheduled air traffic. North American traffic includes only domestic freight traffic.)

Import Volumes
Import shipment volume, in TEUs, at U.S. ports decreased 17.5% in February from the previous month and fell 3.4% from the previous year. The total number of inbound shipments in February decreased 18.6% from January and decreased 2.7% from February 2011 (source: Zepol Corporation | zepol.com).

Warehousing
The U.S. average industrial vacancy rate was 9.74% during Q4 2011, down from 10% in the previous quarter. In Q4 2011, warehouse and distribution rental rates in the U.S. averaged $4.70 per square foot. Net absorption in the U.S. during Q4 2011 totaled +41.3 million square feet (source: Colliers International).

Purchasing Managers Index
The National PMI fell 1.7 points to 52.4 in February 2012. The February PMI has indicated expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 31st consecutive month. New orders decreased 2.7 points to 54.9 and production fell 0.4 points to 55.3 (source: Institute for Supply Management).
(The PMI combines data on new orders, inventory, production, supplier deliveries, and employment.A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding.)

Related Editorial:

Importers Ordering More, Restocking Shelves

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