November 25, 2015

Goldman Finally Looks At The Freight Charts, Raises Alarm About The "Broader Health Of The US Economy"

In the first days of November, we showed that global trade is in freefall with "China Container Freight At Record Low; Rail Traffic Tumbles, Trucking Slows Down." Now, Goldman has finally caught up, and writes that "indicators of freight activity—the volume of goods carried by truck, rail, air or ship—have slowed recently, raising concerns about the broader health of the US economy."
This is how Goldman finally admits what we have been saying for the past two years: the biggest threat to the US, and global, economy is the gradual and ever faster slowdown in trade, something which central banks are incapable of "printing."
Freight transportation data can be a useful gauge of activity in the goods-producing sectors of the economy, for obvious reasons. Products need to move from manufacturers to end consumers, and will be carried along the way by at least one of the four modes of transportation—truck, rail, air or ship—and frequently by multiple types (“intermodal” transport). The economic indicators measuring US transportation activity are also relatively transparent—counting things like the number of containers or rail cars—and in some cases quite timely. They are therefore popular among investors. Recently some of these measures have slowed, raising concerns about the broader health of the US economy.
And here is Goldman doing its best recap of our charting, using its own words:
  • Railcar traffic, for example, has been notably weak, falling by about 3% from a year earlier based on monthly data (Exhibit 1, left panel)

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