We acknowledge that: all of these negative percentages are against extremely tough comparisons; and the Cass Shipments Index has gone negative before without being followed by a negative GDP. However, weakness in demand is now being seen across many modes of transportation, both domestically and internationally.
Although the initial Q2 ’19 GDP was positive, it was not as positive upon dissection, and we see a growing risk that GDP will go negative by year’s end.
The weakness in spot market pricing for many transportation services, especially trucking, is consistent with the negative Cass Shipments Index and, along with airfreight and railroad volume data, strengthens our concerns about the economy and the risk of ongoing trade policy disputes. Weakness in commodity prices, and the decline in interest rates, have joined the chorus of signals calling for an economic contraction.
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When retailers like Wal-Mart, Nordstrom and Target are announcing surprisingly good earnings and Amazon’s Prime Day continues to grow in turnover it is hard to square underperformance of transportation figures. Macy’s remains in a clear, potentially terminal, downtrend and there is still pressure on other brick and mortar chains but I suspect the underperformance of the lower volumes on the transportation index are down to other factors.