Saturday, November 19, 2011

Q3 GDP Growth is a Fire in The Pan Spurt

Conference Board's perspective on the Q3 "growth" spurt.  Personally, I cannot imagine GDP continuing to grow when we are at 9%+ unemployment.  Just the simple economist in me coming out.

Conference Board Report

Supply Chain Executives Define Social Media Too Narrowly

Supply Chain Executives Define Social Media Too Narrowly

A good post and one which I responded to. Please click on link and look for comment from Kevinaom. A very timely and interesting topic.

Learnings Through Logistics' Visits

I  had a great week visiting with many logistics providers and trying to get insight into just exactly what is going on in this business.  Some will tell you the business is collapsing due to low demand, some believe the transportation business is ripe for a great uptick in profitability due to constrained capacity (the jury is still out, in my mind, on whether this is artificial or not), some believe it is all just the same.. we are moving around the margins.

I get conflicting signals.  For example, everyone tells me the driver shortage is wildly acute and we run the risk of just not having enough capacity to service the industry because of a lack of drivers.  Many say if the GDP stays above 2.5% or greater then we will just not have enough capacity to service the shipper market.  However, using "Econ 101" this would tell me driver wages should be increasing.  That is not the case. Driver wages are flat.

The next question is whether the increase in intermodal actually is absorbing the otherwise demand for driver capacity?  This seems to be a plausible answer.  Container capacity is up 10% to 20% (depending on who you talk to) and this means those containers have to be filled.  They will not let them just pile up in a container yard.  Add to the fact that many shippers are lowering their point of indifference of choosing between trucks and IM (Indifference is the length of haul in miles where a shipper sees the two as interchangeable) and more shippers are choosing IM on more lanes.  Obviously, this reduces the need for drivers on long haul runs.

So, data is really mixed.  The analysts are all saying most of these companies (public) are "fairly valued" and the industry should not be overweighted in a stock portfolio.  Projections for pricing have been reduced (early this year most were claiming a 4% price increase but that does not seem to be happening) and capacity has freed up.

The one caveat?  Last year we were saying this same thing and the market for trucks and transportation went on fire in the first quarter.  So, this post did not give you an answer (sorry) but may have provided some things to think about.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Home Construction Will Be Muted - Bad News for Logistics Providers

I think we have all learned over the last few years why home construction is always looked at by economists.  It is probably the single biggest indicator of the health of the economy.  When people buy homes all sorts of things happen:

  1. Construction materials are bought
  2. People are employed en masse
  3. Peripherals are purchased (appliances, lights, drapes etc.)
  4. Landscaping is performed...
I do not know the exact number but my guess is after someone buys a $200K house they most likely, over the next year, spend another $20K at least on "stuff".

This drives all sorts of logistics activities - warehousing and most importantly, transportation volume.  Transportation is inbound into the manufacturing plants which gear up for the activity and outbound finished goods going to all those new homes.

OK, now we know why this is so important.  This is also why it is depressing to hear home construction will be muted for a while - most likely 5 -8 years. The inventory is just too high and there are still a lot of adjustable rate mortgages to reset in 2012.  Not a good sign.

For those of you who say, "Yes, but those staying in a home will remodel" I would say this "rule" (if it ever was one) does not hold up anymore.  The reason is most people, intuitively, know they are now living in a depreciating asset and not an appreciating asset.  Remodeling makes sense in the latter as it is much like a bank account.  However, in the former remodeling is like buying a consumable product which has no sustainable value.  People know this intuitively and will not, in total, increase dramatically their major remodeling (assuming they are sane and rational).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


Thursday, November 17, 2011