Inventories still lean
The ratio of inventories to sales in the economy remained 1.28 in February following a multiyear revision of inventory and sales figures in the wholesale sector. The current inventories-to-sales ratio is not much higher than the all-time low of 1.25 in late 2005 and early 2006. Continuation of lean inventories relative to sales suggests normal shipment levels in the near term for trucking companies.
Truck loadings dip in March
Truck loadings were 0.5% lower in March than in February, according to the FTR Loadings Index. Compared to March 2011, the FTR Loadings Index is up 0.88%. The index generally has been rising gradually since hitting a recent low point in December 2009. (Loadings by commodity as well as a forecast of loadings are available at www.truckgauge.com.)
SOURCE: FTR ASSOCIATES
Manufacturing orders growth slows slightly
54.5% The New Orders index for the manufacturing sector in March was 0.4 points below the February level, suggesting growth in freight shipments but at a slower rate. The composite PMI stood at 53.4% – 1 percentage point above February.
(Above 50%: generally expanding)
Trailer and container loads for U.S. railroads were up 3.5% in March over March 2011.
Rail carloads were down 5.8%.
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Trucking cuts 1,900 jobs in March
After hiring about 20,000 new payroll employees in the previous three months, trucking companies took a breather in hiring in March, reducing payrolls by 1,900 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payroll employment in for-hire trucking is up by 41,400 jobs, or 3.4%, from March 2011. Employment is up by 98,300 jobs, or 8%, from the bottom in March 2010, but it remains 120,900 jobs, or 8.3%, below the peak in January 2007.
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index edged up 0.5% in February after falling 4.6% in January.
Industrial production was unchanged for the second straight month in March, the Federal Reserve reported. Manufacturing output dipped 0.2%.
Housing starts fell 5.8% in March from the February rate. Permits authorized for future residential construction were up 4.5%.
Carrier sentiment reading up in March
6.74 in March
As reported in the March 2012 edition of the Randall-Reilly MarketPulse Report, the Carrier Sentiment Index for March was 6.74 – an improvement over the 5.87 reading in February. More than 60 percent of trucking executives participating in the monthly survey reported that March was better than February.
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