One of my favorite measurements of business activity which actually relates to transportation volume is the Inventory to Sales Ratio. As I get ready for January's numbers to be released I remembered I did not comment on December's numbers. And, they tended to move as I would expect:
What we saw in December was that there was barely a move down which indicated the sales season for Christmas was not very good - which I had predicted since around September. This, as is known for those procuring transportation services, led to excess capacity and very favorable procurement activities.
The key question is what will January show us. My guess is not much and while we may get down to the 2010 / 2011 levels we will, most likely, not see enough of a change to effect the dynamics of the transportation capacity equation. Companies continue to favor strict inventory management and good cash flow management over just about every other aspect of the balance sheet and income statement. In the end, companies have learned it is better to miss a few sales than to be stuck with inventory.
The real interesting number will be released in April then May when February / March numbers are released. Right now there is a lot of excitement in the economy and whether this will translate into a lot of buying activity is yet to be seen.
Right now all the data continues to hold that the transportation network is in balance at best and probably favors the shipper community.