Positive Economic Indicators Heading Into Q2

Although several economic indicators last month were flat, there were a few highlights as we start the second quarter of 2012, courtesy of the Georgia Center of Innovation’s Logistics Market Snapshot:

• U.S. GDP increased at an annual rate of 3% in Q4 2011, which is up from an earlier “second” estimate of 1.8%;

• Although the 120,000 jobs added in March surprised almost every economist (whose predictions averaged gains of 206,000 for March) the Nation’s unemployment rate continued to fall, now at 8.2%;

• U.S. exports continue to grow, setting another all-time record of $181.2 Billion in February. This is almost 10% higher than the same time last year (Source: US Census);

• Rising gas prices apparently did not deter Americans from buying new cars in March. Chrysler had its best month of sales since March 2008 and Nissan had its best month ever. General Motors sales were up by 12% year-over-year, and up 5% at Ford;

• In February, building permits issued (an indicator of future housing starts) rose 5.1%to an annual rate of 717,000(Source: U.S. DOC).

Now the rest of the numbers:

• The Dow Jones Transportation index was flat during the month of March (based on the stock performance of twenty large, well-known U.S. companies in the transportation industry, average of March 10th thru April 10th);

• NASDAQ Transportation Index remained flatin March (Averaged share weights of NASDAQ-listed companies classified as transportation companies, average of March 10th thru April 10th);

• The USDOT's freight transportation services index rose 0.5%in February 2012 following a decrease of 3.6% in January. The index’s reading of 110.3 was 3.7% higheryear-over-year. (Source: US DOT)

• The March shipments index rose 2.1%over the previous month and decreased 1.3%year-over-year. The March expenditures index increased 1%for the month, and increased 4.3%year over year (Source: Cass Information Systems, Cassinfo.com, based upon transportation dollars and shipments of Cass clients comprised of over 400 shipping companies);

• In February, the U.S. imported about $227.2 billionof cargo. February U.S. imports have decreased 2.6%in terms of value over the previous month but grew 7.6%year-over-year. (Source: US Census);

• In February, the U.S. exportedmore than $181.2 billion of cargo, the highest on record. February U.S. exports have increased 0.1%in terms of value over the previous month and grew 9.3%year-over-year. (Source: US Census);

Rail

• Railroad bulk carload freight in March 2012 decreased 3.4%from February 2012. Freight traffic in March fell 5.8%from March 2011. The decrease in freight rail traffic was mainly due to a decline in coal shipments. Carloads excluding coal increased 2.4% over the previous year. (Source: AAR.org; this report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units);

• Intermodal rail traffic in March 2012 was 3.5% higher than in March 2011 and 2.3% higherthan February 2012 totals. Intermodal loadings have experienced year-over-year gains for 28 straight months (Source: AAR.org);

Trucking

• Over-the-Road Trucked Shipments rose 0.3% in March following a 0.7% increase in February. Overall trucked shipments decreased 2.2% 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);

• The ATA’s seasonally adjusted cargo index rose 0.5% in February. The for-hire truck tonnage index rose 5.5% year-over-year. (Source: American Trucking Association | Trucking.org);

• The spot market for truckload freight in February surged 35% compared to the previous month, but was 8.7% lower year-over-year. Truck capacity fell 8.9% for the month, and was up 15% year-over-year (Source: TransCore Freight Index, www.transcorefreightsolutions.com);

Air

• Global air freight in February rose 5.2% from one year ago and was down 1.2% from the previous month. North American air freight in February rose 0.1% year-over-year. (Source: IATA.org; global air freight covers international and domestic scheduled air traffic. North American traffic includes only domestic freight traffic.)

• In February, average international air cargo prices fell 6.7% from the previous month. Average air freight rates were up 4.3% year-over-year. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Ocean

• Import shipment volume, in TEUs, at U.S. ports increased 11.9% in March from the previous month and rose 6.2%from the previous year. The total number of TEU imports in Q1 2012 has outpaced the first quarter numbers for the past three years. (Source: Zepol Corporation | zepol.com)

Warehousing

• The U.S. average industrial vacancy rate was 9.1%during Q1 2012, remaining the same as the previous quarter. (Source: Cassidy Turley);

Purchasing Manager’s Index

• The National PMI rose 1 point to 53.4 in March 2012. The March PMI has indicated expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 32nd consecutive month. New orders decreased 0.4 points to 54.5 and production rose 3 pointsto 58.3. (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:

DOT: Freight Shipments Break Out of Decline

Global shipments into U.S. Jumped Last Month

Some Manufacturing Leaving China for U.S.

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