The Amount Of Stuff Being Bought, Sold And Shipped Around The U.S. Hits The Lowest Level In 6 Years

Trucks - Public DomainWhen less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the country with each passing month, how in the world can the U.S. economy be in “good shape”?  Unlike official government statistics which are often based largely on projections, assumptions and numbers seemingly made up out of thin air, the Cass Freight index is based on real transactions conducted by real shipping companies.  And what the Cass Freight Index is telling us about the state of the U.S. economy in 2016 lines up perfectly with all of the other statistics that are clearly indicating that we have now shifted into recession mode.

If you are not familiar with the Cass Freight Index, here is a definition of the index from the official Cass website

Since 1995, the Cass Freight Index™ has been a trusted measure of North American freight volumes and expenditures. Our monthly Cass Freight Index Report provides valuable insight into freight trends as they relate to other economic and supply chain indicators and the overall economy.

Data within the Index includes all domestic freight modes and is derived from $25 billion in freight transactions processed by Cass annually on behalf of its client base of hundreds of large shippers. These companies represent a broad sampling of industries including consumer packaged goods, food, automotive, chemical, OEM, retail and heavy equipment. Annual freight volume per organization ranges from $1 million to over $1 billion. The diversity of shippers and aggregate volume provide a statistically valid representation of North American shipping activity.

When they say “all domestic freight modes”, that includes air, rail, truck, etc.  As you are about to see, the total amount of stuff that is being bought, sold and shipped around the country by all these various methods has now been declining for 15 months in a row.

If it was just one or two months you could say that it was just an anomaly, but how in the world can anyone explain away 15 consecutive months?

Not only that, but the brand new number that just came out for May 2016 is the lowest number that we have seen for the month of May in 6 years.

Of course the number for April was the lowest number that we have seen for that month in 6 years too, and the number for March was also the lowest number that we have seen for that month in 6 years.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Below is some analysis of these numbers and a chart from Wolf Richter

The Index is not seasonally or otherwise adjusted, so it shows strong seasonal patterns. In the chart below, the red line with black markers is for 2016. The colorful spaghetti above that line represents the years 2011 through 2015. The only month this year that was not the worst month since 2010 was February; only February 2011 was worse. That’s how bad it has gotten in the Freight sector:

Cass Freight Index - Wolfstreet

“Truck tonnage continues to slide for both linehaul and spot markets,” according to the report. And railroads are also singing the blues.

To me, these numbers are absolutely staggering.  How anyone can look at them and then attempt to claim that the U.S. economy is heading for good times is a mystery to me.

And this is especially true considering all of the other news that is pouring in.  Just today, we learned that new home sales have fallen by the most in 8 months.  If you are trying to sell your home, hopefully you will get that done very quickly, because this latest property bubble is starting to burst in a major way.

Of course there are many, many more numbers that tell us that a new U.S. economic crisis has already begun and has been going on for quite a while.  If you doubt this at all, please carefully read my previous article entitled “15 Facts About The Imploding U.S. Economy That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To See“.

Today, I also came across a stunning IMF report that was just released that criticized the U.S. for our shrinking middle class and our rising levels of poverty…

A rising share of the U.S. labor force is shifting into retirement, basic infrastructure is crumbling, productivity gains are scanty, and labor markets and businesses appear less adept at reallocating human and physical capital. These growing headwinds are overlaid by pernicious secular trends in income: labor’s share of income is around 5 percent lower today than it was 15 years ago, the middle class has shrunk to its smallest size in the last 30 years, the income and wealth distribution are increasingly polarized, and poverty has risen.

If you follow my work on a regular basis, you already know that everything that the IMF said in that paragraph is true.

A little bit later in the report, the IMF shared some absolutely startling facts about the growth of poverty in this country…

There is an urgent need to tackle poverty. In the latest data, 1 in 7 Americans is living in poverty, including 1 in 5 children and 1 in 3 female-headed households. Around 40 percent of those in poverty are working.

This distressing growth in our poverty numbers has taken place during Barack Obama’s so-called “economic recovery”.

So how bad are things ultimately going to get for America’s poor now that a new economic crisis has begun?

Before I wrap up this article, I have to mention the early returns from the Brexit vote.  All day on Thursday, global news sources were reporting that the latest polls had “Remain” comfortably in the lead, and global financial markets soared on that news.

But now that the actual votes are being reported, it looks like it is going to be much, much closer than anticipated.  In fact, as I write this article “Leave” is ahead by a 54.16 percent to 45.84 percent margin.  Only a relatively small fraction of the votes have been counted so far, but global financial markets are already being spooked by these results.

If “Leave” does actually win, that is going to have enormous implications for the markets and for the future of Europe.  So let’s keep a close eye on what is happening.  If “Leave” does prove to be victorious, that will be one of the biggest things to hit Europe in decades, and I am sure that I will be posting an article about it tomorrow.

We live at a time when global events are beginning to accelerate, and there is much uncertainty in the air.  If you do not have a solid foundation on which to stand, the events of the coming months will likely shake you greatly.  I encourage everyone to start focusing on the things that really matter, because a lot of the other things that we obsess over will soon become quite insignificant.

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UPDATE: It is official – the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.  They are to be greatly congratulated for declaring their independence, but without a doubt this vote is going to cause some very serious short-term economic and financial pain.  Already we have witnessed the greatest one day crash in the history of the British pound, and stock markets all over the world are crashing.  For much more, please see our latest video update

Economic Activity Is Slowing Down Much Faster Than The Experts Anticipated

Locomotive - Public DomainWe have not seen global economic activity fall off this rapidly since the great recession of 2008.  Manufacturing activity is imploding all over the planet, global trade is slowing down at a pace that is extremely alarming, and the Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low.  If the “real economy” consists of people making, selling and shipping stuff, then it is in incredibly bad shape.  Here in the United States, the dismal economic numbers continue to stun all of the experts.  For example, on Monday we learned that the Texas general business activity index just hit a six year low

Economic activity in Texas keeps getting worse.

The general business activity index out Monday from the Dallas Federal Reserve for January was -34.6, a six-year low and much worse than economists had expected.

The forecast for the monthly index was -14, following a December reading of -21.6 (revised from -20.1) that was also worse than expected.

One could perhaps argue that this is to be expected in Texas because of the collapse in the price of oil.

But what about the very unusual things that we are seeing in other areas of the country?  In Erwin, Tennessee, a rail terminal that had been continuously operating for 135 years was just permanently shut down, and hundreds of workers now find themselves without a job

The last coal train to leave Erwin rolled slowly out of town just after at 3 p.m. Thursday, less than eight hours after CSX Transportation employees heard the news that rocked all of Unicoi County.

“Its a hard pill to swallow,”  county Mayor Greg Lynch said. “Of course, we heard rumors that something was coming down. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they would just shut down and leave town.”

CSX delivered the news of its decision to immediately close Erwin’s 175-acre rail yard and abruptly end the employment of the facility’s 300 workers in a series of meetings with employees conducted at the start of their morning shifts.

It has been said that if you want to know what is really happening with the U.S. economy, just watch the railroads.

And right now, rail traffic all over the nation is falling to depressingly low levels.

One of Steve Quayle’s readers says that rail traffic in Colorado has slowed down so much that hundreds of engines are just sitting there on the tracks

With regard to the train freight article this morning, we have in Grand Junction, CO., literally hundreds of engines sidelined on the tracks. They are three deep on some tracks and easily number over 250. I have never seen this many engines on the tracks before and I feel this is just another indicator of the slowdown in shipping.

In case you are tempted to think that this is just anecdotal evidence, I want you to consider what is happening to the largest railroad company in the United States.

According to Wolf Richter, operating revenues for Union Pacific were down 15 percent last year…

Union Pacific, the largest US railroad, reported awful fourth-quarter earnings Thursday evening. Operating revenues plummeted 15% year over year, and net income dropped 22%.

It was broad-based: The only category where revenues rose was automotive (+1%). Otherwise, revenues fell: Chemicals (-7%), Agricultural Products (-12%), Intermodal containers (-14%), Industrial Products (-23%), and Coal (-31%). Shipment of crude plunged 42%.

So Union Pacific did what American companies do best: it laid off 3,900 people last year.

And of course we can see evidence of the emerging economic slowdown all around us pretty much wherever we look.  Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce, GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers,  and Wal-Mart just announced the closure of 269 stores.

But instead of dealing with reality, there are a lot of irrational optimists that insist that things will start bouncing back any day now.  For instance, CNBC is reporting that Goldman Sachs is forecasting that the S&P 500 will end up finishing the year back at 2,100…

Goldman, though, is sticking with its forecast that the S&P 500 will rebound and finish the year at 2,100, a rise of about 11 percent from current levels but basically no net gain for the full year.

It is easy to say something like that, but the actions of the big banks speak louder than words.

Most people don’t realize this, but several of the “too big to fail” banks laid off thousands of workers in 2015

Bank of America and Citigroup reduced headcount the most, eliminating about 20,000 staffers between them, according to fourth-quarter earnings reports from each bank. The respective moves amount to 4.6 percent and 4 percent fewer workers at the banks. JPMorgan Chase reported in its earnings that it employs 6,700 fewer workers than a year ago.

And guess what?

The “too big to fail” banks did the exact same thing just before the great stock market crash of 2008.

When are people going to finally start understanding that we have a major league crisis on our hands?

Since June 2015, approximately 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out.  After a brief respite at the end of last week, it appears that the global financial crisis is getting ready to accelerate once again.

On Monday, the price of oil dipped back under 30 dollars, the Dow was down another 208 points, and the Nikkei is currently down another 389 points in early trading.

Somewhere close to one-fifth of all global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.

We only have about four-fifths left.

But in the end, I can talk about these numbers until I am blue in the face and some people will still not get prepared.

Some people have so much faith in Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve and the mainstream media that they would literally follow them off a cliff.

By now, most of the people that believe that they should prepare for the coming crisis have already gotten prepared, and most of those that want to believe that everything is going to work out just fine somehow are never going to get prepared anyway.

What is going to happen is going to happen, and tens of millions of people are going to end up bitterly regretting not listening to the warnings when they still had the chance.

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