Economy Watch

U.S. retailers and manufacturers are slicing into inventories they built up during the West Coast port labor dispute, contributing to what's reported to be a softer third-quarter freight market. Stronger consumer spending may help shippers balance inventories as peak season demand picks up.

U.S. West Coast congestion roiled retailer rollouts of spring product lines even after employers and longshoremen ended their showdown in late February, executives told investors during recent second-quarter earnings calls.

An empty shelf in a big box store may be a retail logistics manager’s worst nightmare, but it’s not the only one. Retailers are rethinking inventory management and often carrying more inventory as they expand online sales and develop new delivery strategies.

After decades of moving operations overseas, executives at U.S. manufacturing and distribution firms say they’re coming home, or at least closer to home via Mexico.

India’s merchandise exports slumped for the eighth month in a row in July, but at a slower rate of decline despite well-publicized troubles at the country's largest container facility, according to new provisional trade figures released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The surge in freight traffic that began in April dissipated in July, as shipments dropped 1.6 percent from June, the latest Cass Freight Index shows. That's a normal seasonal trend, Cass said, pointing out that volumes are still higher than in 2013 and the early economic recovery.

For-hire trucking companies continue to add drivers and other workers, though not at the pace they set last year. Still, the JOC Trucking Employment Index is steadily rising past above its 2007 peak. Many transport job openings, however, are going unfilled, federal data show.

Five straight quarters of economic growth, some hot and some not, translates to more trucks on the road. The JOC Truckload Capacity Index is up 7.4 percent year-over-year, thanks to freight demand, strong truck orders last year, higher shipping rates and driver pay. Carriers are becoming more adept at scaling capacity to adjust to demand and other market forces.

U.S. scrap metal exports took a tumble in the first half of 2015 and are expected to fall even more by year’s end, as the strong U.S. dollar continues to weigh on all American exports.

The slowdown in China’s economy poses some risks for container shipping, according to Drewry Maritime Research.