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High Expectations for 2014 Retail Sales and Imports

Feb. 17, 2014
January’s transportation indexes may have started low, but higher trucking employment and truck orders give reason for economic optimism.

Economic indicators for the start of 2014 are mixed, but some of them point to high expectations, according to the latest Logistics Market Snapshot, from the Georgia Center of Innovation. Tops among the positive indicators:

  • Retail sales in 2014 are expected to increase 4.1%, up from the preliminary 3.7% growth seen in 2013.  However, 2014 e-commerce sales is forecast to outpace traditional retail sales growth by 3X with an expected 12% increase. (Source: NRF.com)
  • The industrial sector absorbed +121.3 million square feet in 2013, the strongest reading since 1998, and e-commerce related demand was estimated to account for nearly 40% of all net absorption.  (Source: Cassidy Turley)
  • U.S. vessel imports in 2013 totaled 18.2 million TEUs, up 3.7% from the previous year.  Annual import TEUs haven't been this high since 2007.  (Source: Zepol Corporation | zepol.com)

Other highlights from this report:

Transportation Indexes:

• Dow Jones Transportation index fell 3.9% during the month of January. (Stock performance of twenty large, well-known U.S. companies in the transportation industry, average of January 10th thru February 10th)

• NASDAQ Transportation Index decreased 2.5% in January. (Averaged share weights of NASDAQ-listed companies classified as transportation companies, average of January 10th thru February 10th)

• The January shipments index fell 3.6% over the previous month and fell 2% year-over-year. The January expenditures index fell 5.1% for the month, and increased 1.4% year-over-year. (Source: Cass Information Systems | Cassinfo.com) (Based upon transportation dollars and shipments of Cass clients comprised of over 400 shipping companies)


• Railroad bulk carload freight in January 2014 fell 1.6% from December 2013. Freight traffic in January rose 0.4% from January 2013. Carloads excluding coal increased 2.1% over the previous year. (Source: AAR.org) (Report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units)

• Intermodal rail traffic in January 2014 was 1.3% higher than in January 2013, and fell 2.7% from December 2013. Intermodal loadings have experienced year-over-year gains for 49 straight months. (Source: AAR.org) (Report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units)


• The ATA’s seasonally adjusted cargo index rose 0.6% in December. The for-hire truck tonnage index rose 6.2% from December 2012, making 2013 the index’s best year since 1998. (Source: American Trucking Association | Trucking.org)

• The spot market for truckload freight in January rose 24% compared to the previous month, and was 56% higher year-over-year. Truck capacity remained steady for the month, and was down 218% year-over-year. (Source: DAT Trendlines | www.dat.com)

• Orders for heavy-duty Class 8 trucks in North America are expected to total 34,403 units in January 2014, the second consecutive month with orders over 30K. January orders were 9.2% higher than the previous month and 56% higher year-over-year. (Source: FTR Associates | ftrassociates.com)


• Global air freight traffic in December increased 1.8% from one year ago, and fell 1.0% over the previous month. North American air freight in December fell 0.4% year-over-year. (Source: IATA.org) (Global air freight covers international and domestic scheduled air traffic.)

• In December, the index of East-West air cargo rates fell 0.6% from the previous month, and was 0.6% lower year-over-year. The average price of air cargo leaving the United States in December stood at $3.58 per kilogram. (Source: Drewry) (The Drewry East-West Air Freight Price Index is based on the average of rates ($US per kg) for air freight services on 21 major East-West routes.)

Ocean Freight:

• U.S. vessel imports in 2013 totaled over 18.2 million TEUs, up 3.7% from the previous year. Annual import TEUs haven’t been this high since 2007. (Source: Zepol Corporation | zepol.com)

• Import volume through major U.S. container ports is expected to decrease 8.4% in February from the same month last year. In December, the latest month for which numbers are available, U.S. container ports handled 1.3 million TEUs, a 3.3% decrease over the previous month and a 0.6% increase over the same month last year. Total U.S. containerized imports are expected to increase 4.1% in 2014. (Source: NRF/Hackett Associates)


• The U.S. average industrial vacancy rate was 8.2% during Q4 2013, down from 8.3% in the previous quarter. Overall vacancy was 12% in Atlanta and 9.3% in the South during the fourth quarter. (Source: Cassidy Turley)

• In Q4 2013, warehouse and distribution rental rates in the US averaged $5.20 per square foot, up from $5.11/SF in the previous quarter. (Source: Cassidy Turley)


• The unemployment rate in America decreased to 6.6% in January 2014 as there were 113,000 net new jobs. (Source: US DOL)

• The trucking industry added 3,200 jobs in January after posting a gain of 100 in December. The trucking workforce increased 1.4% over the previous year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Economic Indicators:

• The Consumer Confidence Index increased to 80.7 in January 2014, up 3.2 points from the previous month. (Source: The Conference Board) (The consumer confidence index is based on a monthly survey of 5,000 U.S. household. It is designed to gauge the financial health, spending power, and confidence of the average U.S. consumer.)

• The Leading Economic Index for the U.S. increased 0.1% in December to 99.4 (2004=100), following a 1.0% increase in November and a 0.1% increase in October. (Source: Conference Board) (The LEI is a composite of 10 economic indicators that together create an analytic system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The LEI reveals patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component alone.)

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