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Time for a fresh economic start

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
January 03, 2011

Happy New Year from Newsroom Notes.

A new year means a fresh start or beginning. And based on what various newspaper articles and other reports are saying about the economy’s growth prospects for 2011, it stands to reason there is a healthy sense of optimism in the air, when it comes to assessing the economy as we prepare to dig into what is likely to be an eventful year.

A year ago at this time, it seemed like the general mindset regarding the economy and overall business conditions went along these lines: “well, things certainly cannot get worse than 2009.” They didn’t in 2010, but at the same time things were not exponentially better either. A gradual—or modest—improvement may be more apt when summing up the economy’s growth path in 2010.

So, what happens now? Since my crystal ball is still in the shop and my job description does not include the terms “economic prediction maker” I will instead have to come up with some other approach.

That approach is to look at the encouraging things we saw in 2010 of which there were a few: increasing freight volumes, signs of consumer confidence on the rise, higher equipment orders in the trucking sector, the ongoing intermodal rally (especially on the domestic side), promising import totals at U.S. ports, and others.

But while the positivity train is rolling on these fronts, there are still some black clouds up ahead that are impossible to ignore and will continue to play a role in determining the fortunes of the freight transportation and logistics sectors.

Such things include high unemployment, which is taking a toll on people throughout the country, as well as a sluggish (to put it kindly) housing market, and the high amount of capital reserves businesses have on the sidelines that they are reluctant to use to make investments with until they have a better long-term view into economic activity.

Oh, yeah, there is also the matter of rapidly increasing diesel and oil prices, which are typically viewed as signs of a solid or improving economy. Shippers can expect to take a bit of a hit on their fuel surcharges should prices continue to improve at current rates.

With no national elections on the docket this year, it would also be nice to see Congress make decisions that benefit their constituents, as opposed to the infighting that has dominated the headlines all too often. Am I overreaching on that? Stay tuned. But if Congress can continue the momentum that seemed to be happening during the Lame Duck session, then it just might be onto something heading into the 112th this week.

As I said before, my crystal ball is getting fixed. That said, 2011 will hopefully be a year that we will look back on and remember as the year “things started getting good” again.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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