The Cass Freight Shipping Index is down 9.4% year-over-year, the largest decline since 2009. And this is for January, before the Coronavirus disruption.
The turn of the calendar didn’t leave the bad news in 2019, as the Cass Freight Index showed continued weakness in the U.S. freight market. Both the shipments and expenditures components of the Cass Freight Index worsened sequentially and showed decelerating y/y growth. According to the broader stock market levels, there is still optimism out there, but the freight trends have yet to turn. And the Covid-19 coronavirus case count continues to grow, creating uncertainty around containment and eventual impact on global supply chains. Some Chinese factories resumed operation this past week, but they are still not close to 100% production levels. Others have pushed re-opening back to March 1.
Cass Freight Index
Even before the coronavirus issues have any impact on the U.S. transportation market, the freight market is weak, partially due to elevated inventories.
Cass Air Freight Demand
Cass Truckload Linehaul Index
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, measuring per-mile linehaul rates, takes a look at the largest (and most fragmented) market in the domestic transportation landscape, and it showed a y/y decline of 6.3% in January (a big step-down from the -3.3% in December), as capacity loosened after a tight holiday shipping period.
On the plus side, going into 2020, the sentiment index for consumer confidence remains high. This is why the freight (and industrial) data has not translated into worse news for the broader economy yet. If this trend continues, it will provide support for the economy and likely guarantee the President a second term in office.
Consumer Confidence Silliness
That's more than a bit nonsensical.
If consumer confidence helped shipping, then the shipping index would not be the down 9.4% year-over-year, with a two-year change of -9.6%, and the worst decline since 2009.
Virus Probably With Us Beyond 2020
The above from Coronavirus Expert Opinions.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield says "I think this virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we'll get community based transmission and you can start to think about it like seasonal flu. The only difference is we don't understand this virus."
Massive Shipping Disruptions Coming Up
The most important aspect of this report is that coronavirus implications are not yet reflected in the charts.
Supply chain disruptions have barely started.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock