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Transportation News Bulletins - Logistics

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While December retail numbers are mixed, economic outlook remains cautious
Friday, 15 January 2010 00:00
Economic indicators point to a slow, cautious recovery.

WALTHAM, Mass.—Despite various anecdotal reports which suggested consumers were coming out of hiding and pumping more money into a largely stagnant economy, recently released retail sales numbers tell a somewhat different story.

Earlier this week the United States Department of Commerce reported that December 2009 retail sales slipped 0.3 percent from November 2009 to $353.0 billion. But although there was a sequential decline, December 2009 retail sales were up 5.4 percent year-over-year, while total sales for all of 2009 were down 6.2 percent year-over-year. Removing automobile sales from the mix December was down 0.2 percent from November and up 5.2 percent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation reported that December retail sales-excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants-were up 2.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year and down 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted from November. The NRF also said that preliminary 2009 retail sales, which are comprised of November and December data, were up 1.1 percent year-over-year to $446.8 billion, which tops its projected decline of 1.0 percent and $437.6 billion sales estimate.

"With an eye on managing inventory and maintaining lower price points, retailers did a tremendous job of planning for the holiday season," said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells in a statement. "While the consumer appears to be spending again, double digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum."

Aside from the retail figures, other recent economic indicators continue to present a "mixed" economic outlook, including:

  • a 9.7 percent increase in the November 2009 U.S. trade deficit to $36.4 billion, with exports up 0.9 percent to $182.2 billion and imports up 2.6 percent to $174.6 billion, according to Department of Commerce data; and
  • rising oil prices, with the price per barrel hovering around the $80 mark, and gasoline prices rising in recent weeks.

On the more positive side is a report from the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book," which indicates the U.S. economy has improved modestly in recent weeks although economic activity remains at a low level. The Beige Book reported that freight shipping volumes were up slightly in three of the five districts reporting on transportation services-Atlanta, Cleveland, and Dallas. And it also noted that manufacturing was up overall.

In another encouraging sign, volumes at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles were up in December, finishing off a year that was replete with declines on a strong note heading into 2010.

"In general, things are starting to appear more positive to a certain extent," said Eric Starks, president of FTR Associates. "We have been looking for stabilization in the economy and have seen things stabilize [in recent months] as the economy bottomed out."

While there are some positive things occurring, Starks said that freight volumes need to show consistent gains in the coming months as recent positive economic gains have not turned into a true rebound in freight demand.

Manufacturing shipments up: Recent data from Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers, indicated that from November to December the number of global manufacturers shipping to the U.S. was up 3 percent, following a 1 percent decline from October to November. The 2009 increase topped 5 percent and 1 percent dips in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Panjiva added that the number of U.S.-based companies receiving waterborne shipments from global manufacturers was up 2 percent from November to December.

"I was pleasantly surprised by this increase," Green told LM. "Certainly you would expect after the holiday rush to see seasonal declines, so for there to be an uptick from November to December certainly suggests that businesses are more optimistic than I would have anticipated."

These signs, in turn, lead to a healthy level of optimism in the business world, with upward consumer spending being surprising, too, said Green. But he cautioned it is premature to say we are witnessing a sustained economic recovery, because in an absolute sense output is still well below prior to the 2009 recession, which has seen several ups and downs since global trade bottomed out in February 2009.

Logistics Management, 1/15/2010

DOT reports Freight Transportation Service Index is up 1.8 percent in November from October
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 00:00

WASHINGTON—The United States Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported earlier today that its Freight Transportation Service Index (Freight TSI) is up for the fourth time in the last six months, with a 1.8 percent increase in November from December.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by the for-hire transportation industries, and it includes data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines, and air freight.

BTS officials said the Freight TSI has gone up 2.9 percent in the last six months after three consecutive monthly increases that began in June. From May to August of this year, the Freight TSI went four straight months without a decline (increasing a cumulative 2.8 percent) after falling in nine of the previous 12 months, according to the BTS. And the May-August stretch was the first four-month period without a decline in the index since 2002.

The November Freight TSI at 96.2 is 2.9 percent better than May's recent low of 93.5, when the Freight TSI was at its lowest level in more than a decade-since June 1997-according to the BTS. And it is down 14.7 percent from its historic peak of 112.9 in May 2006.

On an annual basis, the November Freight TSI is the lowest October tally since October 1996, when it hit 89.6. It is also down 6.8 percent compared to October 2008, representing the largest November-to- November decline in the 20-year existence of the Freight TSI.

Over the first 11 months of the year, the Freight TSI is down 4.1 percent, which for that timeframe has been topped twice, with the most recent being a 6.0 percent decrease in 2008.

Logistics Management, 1/13/2010

CaseStack Expands Consolidation in Chicago
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:00
Converting LTL loads to truckloads saves time, money

Warehousing and transportation company CaseStack expanded its retailer consolidation program to Chicago.

In cooperation with retailers and manufacturers, the third party logistics provider is making its Chicago area warehouse available to combine multiple less-than-truckload shipments headed to the same retailer distribution center onto one truck. When a customer joins the program, CaseStack determines where to warehouse their goods based upon the location of other products retailers order at the same time. Retailers then submit “master purchase orders” listing those multiple products. Using a Web-based program, CaseStack consolidates the LTL requests into full truckloads headed directly to the retailer.

“CaseStack’s consolidation model has proven cost effective to suppliers and retailers because the entire supply chain becomes more efficient,” said Dan Sinker, CEO and president of the company.

CaseStack has warehousing operations in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Scranton, Pa., and Toronto, Canada.

The Journal of Commerce Online, 1/12/2010

'Cautious Optimism' Felt in Transportation Industry
Monday, 11 January 2010 00:00

NEWARK, NJ—Transportation executives across the shipping world are taking a cautious view toward the prospects for economic recovery in 2010, with most businesses forecasting little substantial expansion until late in the year or even 2011, according to the special Annual Review & Outlook edition of The Journal of Commerce.

The special annual edition—including outlooks from 170 executives from major maritime, rail, trucking and air as well as retailers and manufacturers that buy shipping services—suggests transportation carriers plan to restrict any additions of new capacity for the rest of the year until there are clear signs of real economic growth. That cautious approach, some industry leaders suggest, could trigger a rapid upturn in shipping prices if demand scales up more rapidly than forecast. The yearly supplement provides in-depth analysis of the maritime, rail, trucking, logistics and trade landscape, critical statistical data and a comprehensive roundtable discussion with three prominent shippers.

For shipping industry providers and customers, 2009 will go down as one of the worst years in modern transportation history. Markets from retail to industrial tanked as the recession deepened, driving down international and domestic trade and forcing drastic measures as red ink flowed among transportation providers and suppliers alike. But as the economy stirred from its slumber late in the year, attitudes began to shift from "How do we survive?" to "How should we prepare for the recovery?" It marked a dramatic turnaround from the hopeless feelings of a year ago, and represented another testament to the resiliency of best-of-breed companies capable of weathering even the worst of downturns. Those cautiously optimistic reflections from 170 senior industry executives are a highlight of The Journal of Commerce's Annual Review & Outlook, a comprehensive examination of the year just ended and the year ahead.

This year's ambitious project, a supplement to the weekly JOC, includes in-depth analysis of the maritime, rail, trucking, logistics and trade landscape, as well as critical statistical data and the 2nd Annual Shipper Roundtable, a comprehensive discussion among the JOC editorial staff and three prominent shippers.

Seaports Press Review, 1/11/2010

China overtakes Germany as biggest exporter
Sunday, 10 January 2010 00:00

BEIJING—China overtook Germany as the world's biggest exporter after exports rose in December for the first time in 14 months, data showed today, in a new sign of the rapid Chinese rise as a global economic force.

Chinese exports in the last month of 2009 jumped 17.7 percent from a year earlier, the state Xinhua News Agency and government television said. That made total exports for the year just over $1.2 trillion, ahead of the $1.17 trillion forecast last month for Germany by that country's foreign trade organization, BGA.

Economists and Germany's national chamber of commerce said earlier it was likely to lose its longtime crown as top exporter.

China's new status is largely symbolic but reflects the ability of its resilient, low-cost manufacturers to keep selling abroad despite a collapse in global consumer demand due to the financial crisis.

China's politically sensitive trade surplus shrank by 34.2 percent in 2009 to $196.07 billion, Xinhua said. That reflected China's stronger economic growth, driven by a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus, and demand for imported raw materials and consumer goods at a time when demand in the United States and other foreign markets is weaker.

The December export rebound was an "important turning point," a customs agency economist, Huang Guohua, said on the state broadcaster CCTV.

"We can say that China's export enterprises have completely emerged from their all-time low in exports," Huang said.

Even though China overtook Germany in 2009 as top exporter, CCTV said its total 2009 trade fell 13.9 percent from 2008.

Los Angeles Times, 1/10/2010

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