Truck Tonnage. This data is collected by the American Trucking Association. It measures total for-hire truck tonnage, and is seasonally adjusted. Truck tonnage in August reached a new all-time high, and is up 4.5% over the past year. The top chart shows the index from 2007 on, while the bottom chart shows the index from 1973 on, and compares it to the inflation-adjusted S&P 500 index. The point of this latter chart is to show that the rise in the real value of equities is proportional to the increased amount of goods hauled around the country. The equity market, in other words, is not unhinged from reality or caught up in a bubble. I note that the chart did suggest equities were in a bubble in the late 1990s, while equities appeared to be extremely undervalued in the Great Recession.
Chemical Activity. This data is put together by the American Chemistry Council, and is derived from a composite index of chemical industry activity. The top chart shows the history of the index, the bottom chart zooms in on the last seven years of the index, and the middle chart compares the year over year growth of the index to real GDP growth. Although the growth of the index has slowed a bit in recent months, it is still consistent with an economy that is growing 2-3% per year.
Architecture Billings. The American Institute of Architects every month asks its members whether their billings for work on the board have increased, decreased, or stayed the same. Last August marked the most number of positive responses since the Great Recession. Even on a 6-month moving average basis, the index shows that the nation's architectural firms are experiencing increased demand for their services, a good indication that commercial construction activity will be expanding in the future.
Crude Oil Production. Thanks to fracking technology, U.S. crude oil production has grown by leaps and bounds—up 54% in the past three years, for an annualized gain of an astounding 15% per year. It's hard to underestimate how much the ripple effects of such an increase are affecting overall economic activity.
Intermodal Rail Traffic. The American Association of Railroads reports that rail shipments of freight containers in the year ending September 12th rose 6.5% from the previous annual period, and registered a new all-time high.