Economy Watch

Japan’s trade surplus with the United States expanded by a whopping 20.4 percent in November on a year-on-year basis, as exports grew relatively strongly while imports fell, according to preliminary trade figures released by the Japanese Finance Ministry on Wednesday

A preliminary reading of an index shows Chinese manufacturing activity in December shrank for the first time since May, the latest sign of weakening European and broader global demand.

Truckload carriers are increasingly optimistic about 2015, with 76 percent expecting freight volumes to increase and 86 percent forecasting higher rates, according to a Transport Capital Partners survey.

Opposition by Democrats and some Republicans to the $1 trillion, rider-festooned spending bill is keeping Washington on edge as the legislation nears a midnight deadline.

Spot rates for dry van trucks jumped 5 cents in the week after Thanksgiving, the biggest leap for spot truckload rates since July, as strong freight demand kept trucks rolling toward the holidays.

FedEx and UPS have boosted their on-time delivery performance to 91 to 95 percent, compared with 83 to 89 percent a year ago, bolstering hopes for a happier holiday season.

Midsize trucking companies are increasingly bullish on the economic outlook and their ability to hire new employees, including drivers, in 2015, according to GE Capital Transportation Services.

Transplace is expanding in Western Canada and Quebec as U.S.-Canada cross-border traffic speeds up, along with the U.S. and Canadian economies.

As consumers raced to stores, spot truck rates rose higher in the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, DAT Solutions reports.

Trucking employment jumped 2.5 percent from a year ago last month, riding the biggest wave of hiring in the U.S. economy in three years and pushing the JOC For-Hire Trucking Employment Index up to 98.3, the highest reading for the index since late 2007.