A measure of North America freight volume shows shipments did not fall in November from the month before for the first time in five years while freight expenditures declined slightly.

The latest Cass Freight Index for shipments remained at 1.092 last month, as shipments were stronger than expected but it was still the lowest reading since March and down 5.1% from November 2014. This happened as rail carloads and intermodal shipments fell and U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for the first time since August 2012, according to the report.

The Cass Freight Index measure of freight expenditures showed just a 1% drop in November from October for a reading of 2.409, its lowest since January. It also registered a 9.1% decline from November 2014, due to excess capacity in the nation’s various freight hauling modes.

This monthly drop was also the fourth in the last five months for freight spending while the year-to-date monthly average is 4.7% lower than compared to the same time last year.

"Much of the difference can be explained by lower shipment volumes, however, these lower volumes eased up the tight capacity constraints we faced in 2014, keeping spot prices in check for much of the year, especially the second half,” said Rosalyn Wilson, supply chain expert, and senior business analyst with the management services firm Parsons, who provides analysis for the report. “Contract rate increases have been extremely moderate.”

She said Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in November were strong compared to last year, with online sales in particular soaring, but expect freight to erode in December following established seasonal trends.

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