The Cass Freight Index for U.S. domestic shipments inched up 0.7 percent in December over the previous year, signaling new stability in shipping demand after the market slipped downward during the fall.
The closely watched shipments measure defied usual seasonal patterns by remaining even in December with November, and the December reading was up nearly 15 percent over the same month two years ago and the highest reading for December since 2007.
The stable demand is in keeping with reports from railroads and trucking companies reporting relatively steady freight loads even as the holidays approached at the end of 2011. It also suggests retailers were postponing final distribution of goods until late in the fourth quarter while maintaining inventories at historically low levels.
Shippers appeared to trade off that late distribution for higher shipping prices.
The Cass expenditures index soared 18.8 percent over the same month the year before, and it even grew 1.8 percent on a month to month basis.