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Recession Watch: US Freight Drops to Worst Level since 2010, “Excess of Capacity” Crushes Rates

by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street:

“Overall shipment volumes are persistently weak.”

When FedEx announced its quarterly earnings today, it included some telling tidbits. In its largest segment, FedEx Express, domestic shipping volume edged up merely 1%. In its smaller FedEx Ground Segment, shipping volume jumped 10%, “driven by e-commerce and commercial package growth.”

Sales by e-commerce retailers jumped 15.8% year-over-year in the second quarter, according to the Census Bureau, and companies involved in getting the packages to consumers and businesses have seen growth in those segments. For the rest, not so much – as the goods-based economy is getting bogged down.

And this has been showing up in broader shipping data. The Cass Freight Index for August, released today, fell 1.1% from a year ago, to 1.115, the worst August since 2010! The 18th month in a row of year-over-year declines!

“Overall shipment volumes (and pricing) are persistently weak, with increased levels of volatility as all levels of the supply chain (manufacturing, wholesale, retail) continue to try and work down inventory levels,” Donald Broughton, Chief Market Strategist at Avondale Partners, wrote in the report.

The Cass Freight Index is based on “more than $26 billion” in annual freight transactions by “hundreds of large shippers,” according to Cass Transportation. It does not cover bulk commodities, such as oil and coal but is focused on consumer packaged goods, food, automotive, chemical, OEM, and heavy equipment.

It’s not seasonally adjusted, so it shows strong seasonal patterns. In the chart below, the red line with black markers is for 2016. The multi-color spaghetti above it represents the years 2011 through 2015. So here’s how dismal the “economic recovery” has looked in 2016 so far:

Read More @ WolfStreet.com

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