Friday, December 19, 2014

ATA Trucking Index increased 3.5% in November

by Bill McBride on 12/19/2014 07:01:00 PM

Here is an indicator that I follow on trucking, from the ATA: ATA Truck Tonnage Index Surged 3.5% in November

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 3.5% in November, following an increase of 0.5% during the previous month. In November, the index equaled 136.8 (2000=100), which was the highest level on record.

Compared with November 2013, the SA index increased 4.4%, down slightly from October’s 4.5% increase but still was the second highest year-over-year gain in 2014. Year-to-date, compared with the same period last year, tonnage is up 3.3%. ...

“With strong readings for both retail sales and factory output in November, I’m not surprised that tonnage increased as well,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “However, the strength in tonnage did surprise to the upside.”

“The index has increased in four of the last five months for a total gain of 6.4%,” Costello said. “Clearly, the economy is doing well with tonnage on such a robust trend-line.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 69.1% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.7 billion tons of freight in 2013. Motor carriers collected $681.7 billion, or 81.2% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
emphasis added
ATA Trucking Click on graph for larger image.

Here is a long term graph that shows ATA's For-Hire Truck Tonnage index.

The dashed line is the current level of the index.

The index is now up 4.4% year-over-year.

Lawler Update: Read on November Existing Home Sales, Distressed Sales and Cash buyers for Selected Cities

by Bill McBride on 12/19/2014 02:54:00 PM

CR Note: The consensus is that on Monday, the NAR will report 5.20 million existing home sales for November, on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR). Housing economist Tom Lawler isn't always correct, but usually he is much closer than the consensus - so I expect a consensus miss on Monday.

From Tom Lawler: "Based on local realtor/MLS reports released through this morning, I estimate that existing home sales as measured by the National Association of Realtors ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.90 million in November, down 6.8% from October’s pace and up 1.4% from last November’s pace. Unadjusted sales last month should be down slightly from a year ago."

Economist Tom Lawler sent me the updated table below of short sales, foreclosures and cash buyers for a selected cities in November.

On distressed: Total "distressed" share is down in these markets mostly due to a decline in short sales (the Mid-Atlantic and Orlando were unchanged).

Short sales are down significantly in these areas.

Foreclosures are up in several areas (working through the logjam).

The All Cash Share (last two columns) is declining year-over-year. As investors pull back, the share of all cash buyers will probably continue to decline.

  Short Sales ShareForeclosure Sales Share Total "Distressed" ShareAll Cash Share
Las Vegas9.5%21.0%8.7%7.0%18.2%28.0%32.8%43.7%
Mid-Atlantic 4.7%7.5%11.0%8.1%15.7%15.7%19.1%19.6%
California *6.2%10.2%5.8%6.8%12.0%17.0%   
Bay Area CA*4.3%7.2%2.8%3.7%7.1%10.9%18.9%22.4%
So. California*6.2%10.5%5.3%6.3%11.5%16.8%23.9%28.1%
Miami MSA SF8.9%15.0%20.8%15.8%29.7%30.8%41.9%45.5%
Miami MSA C/TH5.0%9.2%22.4%18.3%27.4%27.5%67.8%74.6%
Chicago (City)        20.2%32.8%   
Hampton Roads        20.4%26.9%   
Northeast Florida        29.7%38.1%   
Tucson            26.3%32.2%
Toledo            35.4%37.2%
Wichita            26.6%26.5%
Des Moines            19.3%19.9%
Peoria            19.7%21.8%
Georgia***            26.5%N/A
Omaha            21.1%21.6%
Memphis*    15.1%20.5%       
Birmingham AL    14.9%21.0%       
Springfield IL**    11.8%17.6%       
*share of existing home sales, based on property records
**Single Family Only

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 2.6% year-over-year in October

by Bill McBride on 12/19/2014 02:12:00 PM

With lower gasoline prices, vehicle miles driven might reach a new peak in 2015.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:

Travel on all roads and streets changed by 2.6% (6.6 billion vehicle miles) for October 2014 as compared with October 2013.

Travel for the month is estimated to be 264.2 billion vehicle miles.

Cumulative Travel for 2014 changed by 0.9% (23.2 billion vehicle miles).
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

The rolling 12 month total is slowly moving up, after moving sideways for a few years.

Vehicle Miles Click on graph for larger image.

In the early '80s, miles driven (rolling 12 months) stayed below the previous peak for 39 months.

Currently miles driven has been below the previous peak for 83 months - almost 7 years - and still counting.  Currently miles driven (rolling 12 months) are about 1.6% below the previous peak.

The second graph shows the year-over-year change from the same month in the previous year.

Vehicle Miles Driven YoY In October 2014, gasoline averaged of $3.26 per gallon according to the EIA.  That was down from October 2013 when prices averaged $3.42 per gallon.

Prices will really be down year-over-year in November and December too.

As we've discussed, gasoline prices are just part of the story.  The lack of growth in miles driven over the last 7 years is probably also due to the lingering effects of the great recession (lack of wage growth), the aging of the overall population (over 55 drivers drive fewer miles) and changing driving habits of young drivers.

With all these factors, it might take a little more time before we see a new peak in miles driven - but it is possible that a new peak could happen in 2015.

Kansas City Fed: Regional Manufacturing "Activity Expanded at a Moderate Pace" in December

by Bill McBride on 12/19/2014 11:05:00 AM

From the Kansas City Fed: Tenth District Manufacturing Activity Expanded at a Moderate Pace

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released the December Manufacturing Survey today. According to Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the survey revealed that Tenth District manufacturing activity continued to expand at a moderate pace in December, and producers’ expectations for future activity remained at solid levels.

“This month’s results are similar to what we’ve seen most of the year, said Wilkerson. The main change in December, which we started to see in November, is that input price pressures have come down.”

The month-over-month composite index was 8 in December, up slightly from 7 in November and 4 in October. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. ... The employment index jumped from 10 to 18, its highest level in nearly two years. ...

Future factory indexes were mostly stable at solid levels. The future composite index was unchanged at 22, while the future shipments, new orders, and employment indexes increased further. The future capital spending index jumped from 15 to 23, its highest level in five months. In contrast, the future production index eased from 34 to 30, and the future order backlog index also inched lower.
emphasis added
Two more regional Fed manufacturing surveys for December will be released this month (the Dallas and Richmond Fed surveys). So far the regional surveys have indicated decent growth in December and optimism about the future.

BLS: Forty-one States had Unemployment Rate Decreases in November

by Bill McBride on 12/19/2014 10:03:00 AM

From the BLS: Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary

Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in November. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from October, three states had increases, and six states had no change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Mississippi had the highest unemployment rate among the states in November, 7.3 percent. The District of Columbia had a rate of 7.4 percent. North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate, 2.7 percent.
State Unemployment Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the current unemployment rate for each state (red), and the max during the recession (blue). All states are well below the maximum unemployment rate for the recession.

The size of the blue bar indicates the amount of improvement. 

The states are ranked by the highest current unemployment rate. Mississippi, at 7.3%, had the highest unemployment rate replacing Georgia with the highest unemployment rate.

State UnemploymentThe second graph shows the number of states (and D.C.) with unemployment rates at or above certain levels since January 2006. At the worst of the employment recession, there were 10 states with an unemployment rate at or above 11% (red).

Currently no state has an unemployment rate at or above 8% (light blue); Five states and D.C. are still at or above 7% (dark blue).

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