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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Week Of Reckoning

It's the last week of the first month of the quarter, so that means blizzard of economic news. On Wednesday we get advance GDP Q1 and Chicago PMI. Then on Thursday and Friday we get initial claims, the monthly employment report, auto sales, NACM, ISM, and nondurables in factory orders. It will be interesting.

I am mired in work right now, so I will not be able to get back to the issue of law and European ethnic cleansing for a bit, or not to the degree necessary. If I can't get back to it this week, I will get back to it next weekend.

Energyecon wanted discussion of the ATA truck tonnage index in March:

Obviously this shows a break. However March was something of an oddity; an auto related strike sharply reduced some shipments. The pattern preceding March had been that commodity shipments were up while intermodal shipments were down. See rail for March:
Railroads originated 1,308,482 carloads of freight in March 2008, down 0.1 percent (1,467 carloads) from March 2007, the AAR said. U.S. intermodal rail traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, totaled 856,404 units in March 2008, down 5.7 percent (51,705 trailers and containers) compared to March 2007.
The rail pattern so far in April is showing some sustained weakness but a return to overall volume increases on strong carloads:
Total volume was estimated at 34.9 billion ton-miles, up 3.3 percent from the 16th week of 2007.
Cumulative volume for the first 16 weeks of 2008 totaled 5,169,692 carloads, up 1.0 percent from 2007; 3,487,182 trailers or containers, down 3.5 percent; and total volume of an estimated 534.9 billion ton-miles, up 2.3 percent from last year.
Other factors which combined to make March a bit odd were probably the timing of orders for Easter and spring break since Easter was so early this year. We are beginning to see more overall weakness in construction-related shipments. Last year was weak, but sustained somewhat by stronger commercial and industrial construction. This year that impetus is fading.

Interestingly, intermodal shipments are beginning to revive a bit.

I believe that strength in production shipments is not really slumping aside from autos and construction. What is amazing is that overall volume has been pushing up as autos and construction slump.

Trucking costs are escalating sharply with the rise of diesel, so one would expect some traffic to be diverted to rail wherever possible. However trucking accounts for the bulk of freight and rail cannot pick up too much of it.

Thanks MoM - much obliged!

I will be back and reread, always enjoy your well considered read of the data...have a good evening.
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