Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chemical activity points to a stronger economy

The Chemical Activity Barometer, published monthly by the American Chemistry Council since 1919, has jumped 3% in the past 3 months, and is up 2.5% in the past year. This strongly suggests that industrial production—which has been quite weak for the past year or so (due in part to the big slowdown in oil drilling and exploration)—will pick up in coming months. This should go hand in hand with stronger GDP numbers over the course of the year as well. Definitely good news.

The chart above shows the Chemical Barometer Activity index for the past 8 years. The recent uptick is significant.

The chart above shows the index going back to 1960. It tracks overall economic activity pretty closely.

The index also appears to do a good job of leading the growth in industrial production, and by inference, the overall economy. For more detailed information, see Calculated Risk.

Truck tonnage, shown in the chart above, has also picked up this year. The February spike had looked a bit anomalous, but the May reading confirms that activity has picked up over the course of the year. Chemical activity and truck tonnage both track actual physical activity in the economy, and both are pointing to improvement.

The chart above compares truck tonnage with the inflation-adjusted S&P 500 index. Both look on track for further gains. 


Matthew Grech said...

Excellent charts. Thanks for them.

Benjamin Cole said...

Great charts---btw if I read it correctly, truck tonnage now about double 1994 levels.

If true, quite a commentary.

Michael McGaughy / 麥德安 said...

Thanks. Another great post.

Hans said...

I will buy the first two but not the last
as the Case Index indicates trucking weekness,
especially year over year.

Frozen in the North said...

Interesting, I used to use the Baltic Dry index (it kind of blew up when ship production/replacement cycle collided with economic slow down). I must say that its an interesting leading indicators of growth. As for trucking there are fundamental problems with drivers -- it appears there is a massive shortage of available drivers... so I am worried that that index will have the same blow up as the BDI

I used to like CAT, as a lead indicator but its going nowhere.

Thank you very much for that insight

Benjamin Cole said...

Frozen: I have been hearing about the driver "shortage" since the 1980s. It goes along with the shortage of computer programmers in Northern California. Evidently the laws of supply and demand don't work in labor markets.

There is a "shortage" of farm workers too.