Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Freight update: growth and inflation

Here's an obscure but potentially useful indicator of industrial shipping activity from Cass Information Systems. Both freight expenditures and shipping volumes have increased significantly in the past year, but the rate of increase in shipments has fallen in recent months, likely reflecting the "soft patch" in other data that we have already seen. Rising fuel costs likely account for much of the increase in expenditures. I don't think this adds much to our current understanding of the economy, but it does provide concrete evidence that the economy is indeed expanding and deflation risk is de minimis. No amount of money printing can account for the 9.6% increase in the volume of industrial freight shipments over the past year (only genuine growth can drive that), but the 29% rise in shipping expenditures probably has a lot to do with easy money and the weak dollar.

Freight shipment volumes remained essentially flat in May, down .2% from April levels, but up 9.6% compared to 2010. At the same time, transportation expenditures continued to climb, rising 1.7% over the previous month and up 29% from May 2010.

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