A Possible Economic Red Alert

We have already remarked on the growing divergence between the Dow Jones Transportation Average (TRAN) and the Dow Jones Industrials Average (DJIA) on previous occasions. These two stock averages marked the beginning of technical analysis as we know it today. Charles Dow compared the action in the averages over the long term and noticed that price divergences between them tended to develop close to turning points in the economy and the stock market.

 

engine-knockPhoto credit: Getty Images

 

Dow assumed that a marked upturn or downturn in one of the two sectors would soon be followed by a turn in the other sector. He essentially concluded that unless the two sectors were “confirming” each other, trouble was likely brewing under the surface. Over time, a set of technical trading rules was developed based on this observation, which is known as the “Dow Theory” today. To be sure, the Dow Theory is by no means providing fool-proof signals. However, a very large and long-lasting divergence between the two averages is usually not a particularly good sign.

 

TRAN vs INDUTransportation stocks have steadily weakened since peaking at the last trading day of 2014. The DJIA by contrast has by and large moved sideways since then – click to enlarge.

 

No firm Dow Theory “sell signal” is in place yet, although one could perhaps regard the DJIA’s dip in late June/ early July as a “minor” DT sell signal. Still, the divergence remains a noteworthy development, especially as it coincides with worsening breadth in the broader market (even in the technology sub-sector, as John Hussman points out in his most recent weekly market report).

However, what prompts us to write about this topic again is an article by Tony Sagami that was recently published at John Mauldin’s site under the colorful title Sinking Ships, Train Wrecks, and Empty Trucks: My Case Against Transportation Stocks”.

 

Falling Prices and Tonnages

Mr. Sagami is mainly concerned with explaining why he thinks one should avoid transportation stocks like the plague here (or rather, why he even thinks about shorting a number of them). We find the charts he shows primarily intriguing from a wider economic perspective though.

The first chart depicts Shanghai freight rates for container ships. Container shipping companies are evidently hurting rather badly here, as freight rates have even fallen quite a bit below bunker fuel costs recently.

 

Shanghai container freightShanghai containerized freight index – the cost of shipping a container from Shanghai to Rotterdam. This is quite a stunning collapse – on this particular route, ships will reportedly lose $57 per TEU on fuel costs alone.

 

As Mr. Sagami explains, a lot of this has to do with the still growing overhang of new ships, as shipping companies have ordered too many new ships at the height of the last boom. The supply glut is already enormous, but seems set to worsen even further in the near future. Trade data from the region suggest that Asian trade remains quite weak as well. In short, the glut in container ships only explains a part of the decline.

Even more interesting is the ATA truck freight tonnage index in the US though. This index doesn’t measure prices, but the actual tonnage of freight hauled on US highways by truckers. The ATA truck tonnage index has turned down rather noticeably in recent months – in fact, its recent peak has coincided perfectly with the peak in the transportation average shown above:

 

ATA trucking indexA sharp fall in truck tonnage since the beginning of the year.

 

This could still turn out to be another short term blip, both in the TRAN and the ATA index. Somehow we don’t think so though. The decline already seems too pronounced for a mere short term blip – and it has lasted longer than a quarter by now.

 

Conclusion

The US economy is widely seen as the world’s best performing major economy at the moment. However, so far this year most economic data have actually been somewhere between very soft and lackluster. There is one seeming area of strength, namely the labor market. Not only is this a lagging indicator, but the decline in the unemployment rate masks the fact that a great many jobless people are simply no longer counted as unemployed. They have instead become part of the plunging labor force participation rate statistic.

The steep fall in truck tonnage is definitely an alarm signal. It indicates that inventories are already too high relative to demand, something that seems to be confirmed by recent industrial production and retail sales data. Given that tonnage has continued to decline since the end of Q1, one can no longer blame the port strikes either. To be sure, the US economy is not yet signaling an imminent recession. At best though it is muddling through at a very subdued pace. It probably won’t take much to push it over the edge.

 

Charts by: StockCharts, Mauldin Economics, ATA (American Trucking Association)

 

 
 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 
 

 
 

Dear Readers!

It is that time of the year again – our semi-annual funding drive begins today. Give us a little hand in offsetting the costs of running this blog, as advertising revenue alone is insufficient. You can help us reach our modest funding goal by donating either via paypal or bitcoin. Those of you who have made a ton of money based on some of the things we have said in these pages (we actually made a few good calls lately!), please feel free to up your donations accordingly (we are sorry if you have followed one of our bad calls. This is of course your own fault). Other than that, we can only repeat that donations to this site are apt to secure many benefits. These range from sound sleep, to children including you in their songs, to the potential of obtaining privileges in the afterlife (the latter cannot be guaranteed, but it seems highly likely). As always, we are greatly honored by your readership and hope that our special mixture of entertainment and education is adding a little value to your life!

   

Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke

   
 

One Response to “Transportation Sector in Trouble – What are the Implications”

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • TMS-2 fast versionA Date Which Will Live in Infamy
      President Nixon’s Decision to Abandon the Gold Standard Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the Japanese “surprise” attack on the U.S. occupied territory of Hawaii and its naval base Pearl Harbor, “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy.”  Similar words should be used for President Nixon’s draconian decision 45 years ago this month that removed America from the last vestiges of the gold standard.   Nixon points out where numerous evil speculators were suspected to be...
  • Perfect-InvestmentInsanity, Oddities and Dark Clouds in Credit-Land
      Insanity Rules Bond markets are certainly displaying a lot of enthusiasm at the moment – and it doesn't matter which bonds one looks at, as the famous “hunt for yield” continues to obliterate interest returns across the board like a steamroller. Corporate and government debt have been soaring for years, but investor appetite for such debt has evidently grown even more.   The perfect investment for modern times: interest-free risk! Illuustration by Howard...
  • Factories, new vs oldUS Economy – Something is not Right
      Another Strong Payrolls Report – is it Meaningful? This morning the punters in the casino were cheered up by yet another strong payrolls report, the second in a row. Leaving aside the fact that it will be revised out of all recognition when all is said and done, does it actually mean the economy is strong?   Quo vadis, economy? Image credit: Paul Raphaelson   As we usually point out at this juncture: apart from the problem that US labor force participation has...
  • CorporateMediacontrolTrump's Tax Plan, Clinton Corruption and Mainstream Media Propaganda
      Fake Money, Fake Capital OUZILLY, France – Little change in the markets on Monday. We are in the middle of vacation season. Who wants to think too much about the stock market? Not us! Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to reform the U.S. tax system.   This should actually even appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders: the lowest income groups will be completely exempt from income and capital gains taxes under Trump's plan. We expect to hear...
  • mania1The Great Stock Market Swindle
      Short Circuited Feedback Loops Finding and filling gaps in the market is one avenue for entrepreneurial success.  Obviously, the first to tap into an unmet consumer demand can unlock massive profits.  But unless there’s some comparative advantage, competition will quickly commoditize the market and profit margins will decline to just above breakeven.   Example of a “commoditized” market – hard-drive storage costs per GB. This is actually the essence of economic...
  • Mark Carney starts work as Bank of England governor in Dave Simonds cartoonBank of England QE and the Imaginary “Brexit Shock”
      Mark Carney, Wrecking Ball For reasons we cannot even begin to fathom, Mark Carney is considered a “superstar” among central bankers. Presumably this was one of the reasons why the British government helped him to execute a well-timed exit from the Bank of Canada by hiring him to head the Bank of England (well-timed because he disappeared from Canada with its bubble economy seemingly still intact, leaving his successor to take the blame).   This is how Mark Carney is seen by...
  • old friendsAn Old Friend Returns
      A Rare Apparition An old friend suddenly showed up out of the blue yesterday and I’m not talking about a contributor who had washed out and, after years of ‘working for the man’, decided to return for another whack at beating the market. Instead I am delighted to report that I am looking at a bona fide confirmed VIX sell signal which we haven’t seen for ages here.   Hello, old friend. Professor X and Magneto staring each other down in the plastic...
  • web-puzzled-man-scratching-head-retro-everett-collection-shutterstock_91956314News from TINA Land
      Distortions and Crazy Ideas We have come across a few articles recently that discuss some of the strategies investors are using or contemplating to use as a result of the market distortions caused by current central bank policies. Readers have no doubt noticed that numerous inter-market correlations seem to have been suspended lately, and that many things are happening that superficially seem to make little sense (e.g. falling junk bond yields while defaults are surging; the yen rising...
  • tortoiseThe Fabian Society and the Gradual Rise of Statist Socialism
      The “Third Way”   “Stealth, intrigue, subversion, and the deception of never calling socialism by its right name” – George Bernard Shaw   An emblem of the Fabian Society: a wolf in sheep's clothing   The Brexit referendum has revealed the existence of a deep polarization in British politics. Apart from the public faces of the opposing campaigns, there were however also undisclosed parties with a vested interest which few people have heard about. And...
  • storming the storeRetail Snails
      Second Half Recovery Dented by “Resurgent Consumer” We normally don't comment in real time on individual economic data releases. Generally we believe it makes more sense to occasionally look at a bigger picture overview, once at least some of the inevitable revisions have been made. The update we posted last week (“US Economy, Something is Not Right”) is an example.   Eager consumers storming a store Photo credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg   We'll make an...
  • The CongressThe Fed’s “Waterloo” Moment
      Corrupt and Unsustainable James has been a big help. Trying to get him to sleep at night, we have been telling him fantastic and unbelievable bedtime stories – full of grotesque monsters... evil maniacs... and events that couldn’t possibly be true (catch up here and here).   He turned his head until his gaze came to rest on the barred windows of the main building. Finally, he spoke; as far as I was aware these were the first words he had uttered in more than five years....
  • Lighthouse in Storm --- Image by © John Lund/CorbisSilver is in a Different World
      The Lighthouse Problem Measured in gold, the price of the dollar hardly budged this week. It fell less than one tenth of a milligram, from 23.29 to 23.20mg. However, in silver terms, it’s a different story. The dollar became more valuable, rising from 1.58 to 1.61 grams.   Who put that bobbing lighthouse there? Image credit: John Lund / Corbis   Most people would say that gold went up $6 and silver went down 43 cents. We wonder, if they were on a sinking boat,...

Austrian Theory and Investment

Support Acting Man

Own physical gold and silver outside a bank

Archive

j9TJzzN

350x200

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com