Economy Watch

Retail inventories expanded in the U.S. in December, as slower than expected sales at brick-and-mortar stores kept large piles of goods largely intact. Those inventories are likely to be a drag on U.S. freight shipments in the first quarter, adding to fears of a new recession.

warehouse inventory
Mentions of a recession-like environment from top transportation executives and lackluster growth in domestic and international freight volumes are sparking fears that a U.S. freight recession is upon us that could be a harbinger of something even worse: an outright economic recession.

Russia’s imports may increase significantly this year because of further devaluation of the ruble, making Russian goods more competitive in the global market, according to recent statements from the Russian Association of Commercial Seaports and analysts of the Russian Ministry of Transport.

Despite unexpected volatility in the first few weeks of 2016, Cushman & Wakefield anticipates one more year of strong absorption of industrial real estate space before demand in the warehouse and distribution sector slows down.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services beat both Wall Street and Main Street in the fourth quarter, winning more business and hauling more freight when overall U.S. shipment volumes were dropping.

China is about to begin its latest Five Year Plan, and while it is easy to dismiss the planned approach as a Soviet-style relic of the past, the next few years will be critical to a country undergoing a chaotic transition from an export and industry focus to a consumption and services model.

Speakers, attendees at the SMC3 JumpStart 2016 conference report inventory levels high enough to slow GDP growth, depress freight demand.

India’s merchandise exports fell for the 13th month in a row in December, the longest streak of declines on record, but at a slower pace than the previous four months, according to preliminary foreign trade figures published by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

News that China’s GDP had slowed to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, with a full-year economic growth of 6.9 percent, set off the usual frenzy of analysis across financial media platforms, with little useful information to be gleaned from all the chatter.

Freight demand is likely to stay even lower than usual in early 2016, thanks to retail inventories that climbed higher in November and a drop in December retail sales, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.