Freight Shipments Sinking Globally, US Joins The Parade: Global Recession Starts

The economic outlook based on freight shipments is growing dim. Global expansion has peaked.

Please consider the Economic Outlook from Freight’s Perspective.

Cass' Growing Concerns

  • When the December 2018 Cass Shipments Index was negative for the first time in 24 months, we dismissed the decline as reflective of a tough comparison. When January 2019 was also negative, we again made rationalizations. Then February was down -2.1% and we said, “While we are still not ready to turn completely negative in our outlook, we do think it is prudent to become more alert to each additional incoming data point on freight flow volume, and are more cautious today than we have been since we began predicting the recovery of the U.S. industrial economy and the rebirth of the U.S. consumer economy in the third quarter of 2016.”
  • When March was down -1.0%, we warned that we were preparing to ‘change tack’ in our economic outlook.
  • With April down -3.2%, we see material and growing downside risk to the economic outlook. We acknowledge that: all of these still relatively small negative percentages are against extremely tough comparisons; the two-year stacked increase was 6.6% for April; and the Cass Shipments Index has gone negative before without being followed by a negative GDP. We also submit that at a minimum, business expansion plans should be moderated or have contingency plans for economic contraction included.
  • The initial Q1 ’19 GDP report of 3.2% suggests the economy is growing faster than is reflected in the Cass Shipments Index. Our devolvement of GDP explains why the apparent disconnect is not as significant as it first appears.
  • 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, heightens our concerns about the economy and the risk of ongoing trade policy disputes.
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