The turn of the calendar didn't leave the bad news in 2019, as the Cass Freight Index showed continued weakness in the U.S. freight market. Both the shipments and expenditures components of the Cass Freight Index worsened sequentially and showed decelerating y/y growth. According to the broader stock market levels, there is still optimism out there, but the freight trends have yet to turn. And the Covid-19 coronavirus case count continues to grow, creating uncertainty around containment and eventual impact on global supply chains. Some Chinese factories resumed operation this past week, but they are still not close to 100% production levels. Others have pushed re-opening back to March 1.
Even before the coronavirus issues have any impact on the U.S. transportation market, the freight market is weak, partially due to elevated inventories.
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, measuring per-mile linehaul rates, takes a look at the largest (and most fragmented) market in the domestic transportation landscape, and it showed a y/y decline of 6.3% in January (a big step-down from the -3.3% in December), as capacity loosened after a tight holiday shipping period.