Economy

Economic news not all bad

Following are items that came our way in the last several days. Hey, it’s not all gloom and doom. Of the four, two anticipate positive change in trucking:   The current glut of trucking capacity won’t last too long, says Chief Economist Bob Costello of the American Trucking Associations. He notes that thousands of fleets have gone belly-up, those truckload carriers that are surviving have been downsizing for a few years, and the driver shortage will return ...

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Bright spots few and far between

  There’s plenty of bad news from the economy-watchers at the Institute of Supply Management. As the headline for the February roundup of manufacturing stats says: “New Orders, Production, Employment and Inventories Contracting.”   No surprise there. So for what it’s worth, here are a few shiny needles among the haystack:   Factory output is still shrinking, but not as fast as in January. “ISM's Production Index registered 36.3 percent in February, which is an increase of 4.2 ...

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Following the billions

  You’ve heard reports about the diverse types of projects that the federal bailouts are funding, in some cases how few jobs they will create, and how some of the expenditures are scheduled to take place years after the economy is likely to have rebounded.   Two websites can help you track this fiscal free-for-all. They’re both called “Stimulus Watch,” but are quite different.   The most publicized one is Stimulus Watch, which lists many proposed projects that could become ...

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For the newly jobless, driving never looked so good

Recent trucking news has reported the reversal of the driver shortage, which had appeared to be, as Jesus said of the poor, with us forever. Friday’s Wall Street Journal highlights how the competition for drivers is worse than ever partly because of people recently unemployed from car plants or construction and desperate for a paycheck.   At Prime Inc., even white collar workers are knocking on the door, a recruiting director told the Journal. The company ...

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When boxcars come to stay

Railroads were advertising a lot during last year’s period of rising fuel prices, touting their good cost-per-mile for moving a ton of commodities. Lest you think the super-heavy-duty engines are stealing your livelihood, consider this anecdotal evidence from the Wall Street Journal: Boxcars used to be a “fleeting sight” in the town of New Castle, Ind. For the past year, though, 100-plus yellow boxcars have been parked in the middle of town. The line stretches for ...

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Some stimulus trickle-down for trucking

The $787 billion economic stimulus doesn’t offer much for leased operators other than hopes of better roads and, with federal aid to banks, easier credit. Some tax provisions, though, can benefit carriers, including small owner-operator independents, and to a lesser extent leased operators with an extension of capital expenditures deduction. The American Trucking Associations reports that the package: • Extends bonus depreciation, allowing businesses to make a tax deduction of 50 percent of the cost of depreciable ...

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For retail sales, a tiny reversal

The latest bit of bright news is Friday’s report that retail sales rose 1 percent in January over December. The Wall Street Journal says economists attribute the blip – following six consecutive months of falling retail sales – “to discounting and easier automobile-financing terms in January. Sales of cars, electronics and clothes all were up. Year-over-year, January retail sales decreased 9.7%.” For a dose of reality, the weekly roundup from Bob Costello, chief economist at the ...

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Offering more than the other guy

Overdrive’s 2007 Trucker of the Year, two-truck fleet owner Henry Albert, knows that other independents, as well as bigger fleets, can do what he does. And in the current environment, ranking behind the competition isn’t a good idea.   “The amount of freight available is falling away at the same rate as trucking companies,” said Albert, who this week stopped for a breakfast at the T/A on I-59/20 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where Overdrive is based. Senior ...

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Will haul crutches for food

One wee bit of good news from the Institute for Supply Management today: The service sector is shrinking slower than it was in December. "The NMI (Non-Manufacturing Index) registered 42.9 percent in January, 2.8 percentage points higher than the seasonally adjusted 40.1 percent registered in December, indicating contraction in the non-manufacturing sector for the fourth consecutive month, but at a slightly slower rate,” reports ISM. Even better news is for those tied to two sectors: Health ...

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Clogged warehouses a bad sign for freight

Friday’s bad report on the fourth quarter’s Gross Domestic Product bodes ill for those who want to make a living moving freight in the coming months.   The economy contracted 3.8 percent in the final three months of 2008, according to the Commerce Department. But strip out production that merely inflated inventories, and the economy would have contracted 5.1 percent. Even with companies lopping off production like dead limbs, it wasn’t fast enough to compensate for ...

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