Fleet Management

Trucking Barometers Mixed

March 27, 2001

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The barometers that trucking sometimes turns to in order to gauge the future health of the industry are mixed. As recently as yesterday, several figures were released which, while they weren’t cause for celebration, weren’t cause for alarm, either.

Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported the durable goods orders fell again in February, but nowhere near as fast as the previous month. The 0.2 percent decline follows a revised decline of 7.3 percent in January. Reuters reported the number was worse than its survey of economists were expecting, who were forecasting the number to be unchanged. The biggest drop was reported in the transportation sector, including orders for airplanes and cars, which fell 2.6 percent, after nose-diving 23.7 percent the month before. Excluding this sector, durable goods orders actually increased 0.5 percent for the month, following a 1.6 percent decline in January.
The news came on the same day the Conference Board release its numbers indicating that consumer confidence in the U.S economy rose for the first time in five months. The private group reported its index of consumer attitudes of 5,000 households rose to 117 in March, up from an upwardly revised February number of 109.2. The number beat Wall Street forecasts of a drop to 104.5 for the month. Bloomberg reported the news caused the NASDAQ Composite Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index all to post strong gains.
Meanwhile, the day before, another favorite barometer of trucking chimed in with numbers on sales of new homes. The Commerce Department reports sales of single family homes fell again in February, but not as much as the month before, registering a 2.4 percent decline following a January drop of 5.4 percent. Trucking will still have to wait before figures of new home starts are released. Both are important indicators as to the future health of the trucking industry because so many construction products are shipped by truck. Analysts say housing starts are still strong, due mainly to cuts in interest rates.

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