Economy Watch

Large, diversified truckload carriers found detours around the "soft patch" in the U.S. economy during the first quarter, with most increasing revenue and profit. A lack of drivers may have held back some companies.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index rose 5.1 percent year-over-year in March and climbed 2.3 percent from February, a sign of healthy freight demand at the end of the first quarter.

The number of job openings for transportation, warehouse and utility workers rose sharply from a year ago in February, as a milder winter created more opportunities in logistics businesses.

Truck tonnage increased in March after a February fall, riding a wave of stronger consumer confidence, retail sales and U.S. imports.

In a major setback for the new Narendra Modi-led Indian government’s aggressive effort to rev up the economy, the nation’s merchandise exports for fiscal year 2014-15, which ended March 31, fell far short of the targeted $340 billion, according to preliminary trade figures released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

U.S. diesel prices have fallen to a low not seen since Avatar raked in hundreds of millions of dollar at movie theaters across the country.

Portland cranes
The most damaging aspect of the exodus of two major container lines from the Port of Portland, Oregon, last month was the loss of more than 650 trade and transportation jobs in Oregon, the port’s executive director says.

Weak exports from China are driving Asia-Europe container freight rates down to new record lows, according to the world’s largest shipping association.

U.S. exports of logs and lumber via ocean container declined year-over-year in January for the fourth consecutive month, partly because of declining demand from China and unfavorable exchange rates.

The pace of truck rate increases could slow this year, if manufacturing continues to grow slowly and low energy prices deter capital investment, Wall Street analysts said. However, they see a storm coming in 2016-17.