The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index reversed course in October, rising 1.1 percent from September after declining for three consecutive months, indicating that trucking activity as measured by fuel purchases picked up in the early fall.
That should ease but not eliminate concerns that the U.S. economy is headed back toward recession, said Ed Leamer, chief economist for the index. “The October data offer some welcome relief … but one month does not mean a new trend.”
Over the past three months, compared to the previous three months, the index declined at an annualized rate of 5.8 percent. “Until we get a series of positive months, it remains a she-loves-me, she-loves-me-not economy,” said Leamer.
The Ceridian-UCLA index rose 1.3 percent in October, compared to a 0.2 percent drop in September. The index is based on over-the-road purchases of diesel fuel through Ceridian’s electronic truck card network.
The Ceridian-UCLA index’s uptick is bolstered by a 0.9 percent increase in the Department of Transportation’s Freight Transportation Services Index for October. The DOT freight volume index hit its highest point since July 2008 last month.
The DOT index, which measures month-to-month changes in ton-miles by all freight modes, was up 1.2 percent in the third quarter, its eighth gain in the last nine quarters. Through the first nine months of 2011, the index was up 2.5 percent.
But not all measures of freight activity are as positive. The Cass Freight Index for shipments for October showed trucking freight volume dropping 9.9 percent from September, compared with a 5.2 percent drop in the same period last year. Year-over-year, the Cass shipments index rose 2.2 percent in October.
“The feeling we’re getting from our shipper clients is caution — caution that the worst is probably over but slow going is prudent,” said Frank Cirimele, director of products and services for Cass Information Systems, a freight payment firm.