Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press this week notes that five key economic areas show potential early signs of a turnaround, in spite of continuing signs of worsening problems.
Three of the five directly impact trucking: new homes, retail sales and durable goods. Each also was accompanied with a “reality check” reminding readers of the ongoing bad news, of which there is no shortage. The other two areas were existing home sales and Wall Street.
Looking strictly at freight, the American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index edged up 1.7 percent in February, marking the second consecutive month-to-month increase. Backing this up was an observation from Michael Hinz of Schneider, as I mentioned in my last post. He noted last week that the carrier’s volume had picked up since early March, though he didn’t go out on a limb to say it marked the end of the downturn.
I’m no economist, but I’ll toss in one final indicator of my own: diesel prices. Granted, there are many factors that drive global fuel prices, but it’s hard to ignore that the steady decline in diesel since mid-2008 has corresponded with the onset of the most serious part of the recession. After all, diminished economic activity means less demand to fuel trucks and construction equipment. This week saw a reversal. The weekly report from the U.S. Department of Energy showed the national average price of on-highway diesel jumped 7.3 cents to $2.090 per gallon, the first increase in 10 weeks.
— Max Heine