Friday Economic Snapshot: Trucking along

As we’re nearing the end of January and the coldest stretch of the year (hopefully, says this Minneapolis-based editor), a new round of economic indicators show that the U.S. economy continues exhibiting signs of strength after a disappointing December jobs reports added some doubts to the proclamations that 2014 is a year of finally-strong growth.

This week’s biggest financial news is the strongest home sales data in seven years, unemployment claims holding steady, various indexes showing general improvement in economic conditions and a Dow Jones Industrial Average that remains skittish, but still above 16,000.

Let’s dive in.

Trucking Index

The American Trucking Association’s Tonnage Index is an indicator we don’t rarely discuss, but a more tangible way to visualize improvement in the economy.  By tracking for-hire truck tonnage, the ATA shows how much freight is moving on our freeways and highways.

For December, the index increased 0.6 percent after surging 4.7 percent in November. This puts 2013’s index 6.2 percent higher, “making it the index’s best year since 1998.”

Home Sales

This week’s housing data is equally optimistic, with the National Association of Realtors reporting that December’s existing-home sales increased a full percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million.

From the report: “For all of 2013, there were 5.09 million home sales, which is 9.1 percent higher than 2012. It was the strongest performance since 2006 when sales reached an unsustainably high 6.48 million at the close of the housing boom.”

Low inventory levels will continue to put pressure on housing prices, leading more developers to roll out new building projects of all types. If trend lines continue, housing will continue to be a major positive economic driver throughout 2014, even if sales are still far below pre-recession levels.

Unemployment Claims

As mentioned earlier, December was a shocker in terms of unemployment claims and job growth statistics far below expectations. This week’s results continue to suggest that those disappointing numbers were an aberration, partially linked to the extreme cold that’s kept much of the nation indoors this winter.

For the week ending January 18, seasonally adjusted claims were 326,000, an increase of 1,000 from last week’s revised 325,000. The 4-week moving average is now at 331,500, which is a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week’s average of 335,250.

We expect more industry-specific data as public companies begin releasing quarterly earnings, so stay tuned to Boating Industry for updates on the companies that matter to your business.


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