Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ceridian-UCLA: Diesel Fuel index declines in September, Flow of goods has "stalled"

by Bill McBride on 10/13/2010 03:00:00 PM

This is the new UCLA Anderson Forecast and Ceridian Corporation index using real-time diesel fuel consumption data: Pulse of Commerce IndexTM

Pulse of Commerce Index Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the index since January 1999.

This is a new index, and doesn't have much of a track record in real time, although the data suggests the recovery has "stalled" since May.

Press Release: Economy Devoid of Momentum: Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ Declines for Second Consecutive Month in September

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ (PCI), a real-time measure of the flow of goods to U.S. factories, retailers, and consumers, fell .5 percent in September after falling 1.0 percent in August, which is the first time the index has experienced a consecutive monthly decline since January 2009. Furthermore, August and September 2010 together produced the worst combined two-month decline since the recessionary months of January and February 2009.

The decline indicates four consecutive months of limited to no increases in over the road movement of produce, raw materials, goods-in-process and finished goods since the PCI peaked in May 2010. Moreover, the PCI forecasts GDP growth in the third quarter of 2010 at an anemic 0.7 percent to 1.7 percent, below the PCI’s previous 1.5 to 2.5 percent estimate reported last month (which at the time approximated the consensus economic view). The PCI forecast of the Federal Reserve's monthly Industrial Production (IP) index (to be released later this month) also signals IP growth for September to be very close to zero with an even odds chance for a negative number.

The PCI tells us that inventory is stalled on the nation’s thoroughfares. The good months of growth are now seemingly in our rear view mirror,” said Ed Leamer, chief PCI economist and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “Our economy’s loss in traction is alarming and for the ‘Cassandras of the double-dip,’ may foretell a coming decline in GDP and spike in unemployment. However, with residential investment, consumer durables, business spending, and other component indicators already at or near record lows relative to GDP, it remains unlikely that we will experience an outright decline into recession.”
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The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ is based on real-time diesel fuel consumption data for over the road trucking ...
I'm not confident in using this index to forecast GDP growth, although it does appear to track Industrial Production over time (with plenty of noise).