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Oil price rises on Mideast tensions, stock markets cautious

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After six weeks of declines that totaled 13 cents, the price of a gallon of diesel went up 1.3 cents a gallon for the week ending July 8 but dropped four tenths of a penny last week. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

BANGKOK — The price of oil rose on Friday after the U.S. said it had destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf, where a lot of the world’s oil is shipped through. Stock markets were largely stable as investors monitor earnings and the ongoing trade talks between China and the U.S.

Energy prices were ratcheted higher after President Donald Trump said a U.S. warship had downed an Iranian drone that had been threatening. While Iran denied the incident, it’s the latest incident to increase tensions and uncertainty in the region, where oil tankers have been attacked or threatened.

About 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, so investors are aware of the potential for disruptions to ship traffic.

The U.S. benchmark for crude oil advanced 71 cents, or 1.3%, to $56.01 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the international oil standard, picked up 98 cents, or 1.6%, to $62.91 per barrel.

Obviously, the price of on-highway diesel is an outgrowth of the price of oil.

Diesel has gone down seven of the last eight weeks.

After six weeks of declines that totaled 13 cents, the price went up 1.3 cents a gallon for the week ending July 8 but dropped four tenths of a penny last week.

Stock markets were mixed, with Britain’s FTSE 100 shedding 0.1% to 7,484 and the CAC 40 in Paris falling by the same rate to 5,543. In Germany, the DAX rose less than 0.1% to 12,236. Wall Street looked set for small gains, with the future for the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.2% and the future for the S&P 500 adding 0.1%.

Reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts as planned, with more talks to come, helped ease some concerns over the deepening trade war between Washington and Beijing.

The standoff over China’s longstanding trade surpluses and its policies aimed at building up advanced high-tech industries has added to concerns over slowing demand and weaker Chinese growth.

Expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will move quickly to cut interest rates have also helped buoy sentiment recently.

Comments by the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, John Williams, suggesting central banks need to “take swift action” when conditions turn adverse, have whetting investors’ appetites for buying, analysts said.

“Investors are highly sensitive to dovish comments from Fed presidents these days, as they are trying to figure out whether the Fed would lower its interest rates by 50 basis points by the end of this month,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya of London Capital Group said in a report.

“Given that a 50-basis-point cut would trigger a further rally in global equities, any remark of dovish nature translates immediately into higher asset prices,” she said.

In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 2% to 21,466.99 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 1.1% to 28,765.40. The Shanghai Composite index rose 0.8% to 2,924.20, while in South Korea, the Kospi added 1.4% to 2,094.36. India’s Sensex slipped 1.3% to 38,390.88. Shares rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Investors are looking ahead to corporate earnings.

So far, in the U.S. the results have been mixed, though only about 13% of S&P 500 companies have reported, according to FactSet. Analysts expect profits to fall 2.4% overall by the time all reports are tallied.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 107.60 Japanese yen from 107.30 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1239 from $1.1279.

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FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index improves again in June up two point to 8.8

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The chart shows that the 2019 Shippers Condition Index is considerable higher that for the comparable period in 2018. (Courtesy: FTR)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) rose to a good positive reading in June of 8.8, up two points from the updated May measure.  The June SCI reading is the strongest since February 2016.

Freight-related indicators are mixed, FTR said.

Manufacturing is growing very slowly, and construction is weaker. However, consumer spending remains strong.  Truckload rates are about 7.5% below 2019 with spot rates down nearly 18% whereas less-than-truckload rates have been higher this year.

Both are expected to decline in 2020.   Intermodal rates continue to be soft with rail expecting 5% growth in 2019.

“The relatively weak rate environment for truckload allows it to compete more effectively with intermodal,” said Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR. “Intermodal volumes have been stymied by trade headwinds, changes in rail service offerings, overall rail service levels, and the weak truck market. International and domestic intermodal each struggled in June with weak results.”

The Shippers Conditions Index tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market. These conditions are: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence the shippers’ freight transport environment. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. A negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. The index tells you the industry’s health at a glance. In life, running a fever is an indication of a health problem. It may not tell you exactly what’s wrong, but it alerts you to look deeper. Similarly, a reading well below zero on the FTR Trucking Conditions Index warns you of a problem…and readings high above zero spell opportunity. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment. Double digit readings (both up or down) are warning signs for significant operating changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Descartes Systems Group acquires BestTramsport.com for $11.2 million

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BestTransport has been connecting shippers and carriers to streamline transportation processes for more than 15 years. (Courtesy: DESCARTES)

WATERLOO, Ontario — Descartes Systems Group, a global company that unites logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, said it had acquired BestTransport.com Inc. (BestTransport), a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) provider focused on flatbed-intensive manufacturers and distributors.

BestTransport has been connecting shippers and carriers to streamline transportation processes for more than 15 years.

Shipper and carrier customers leverage BestTransport’s platform to more efficiently manage numerous shipments each year across North America and Europe, according to Andrew Roszko, executive vice president of global sales at Descartes, adding that the company offers a full TMS suite of solutions from contract rate management through to load building, shipment execution and freight payment, with extensive capabilities for flatbed transportation moves.

“Moving goods in the flatbed market requires domain expertise and special equipment, and the associated transportation management processes have some unique characteristics,” Roszko said. “BestTransport has built a great business by creating a platform that addresses these unique characteristics with solutions available for both shippers and carriers.”

“BestTransport, like Descartes, sees the value in creating a common platform for multiple constituents to collaborate and manage the lifecycle of shipments,” said Edward J. Ryan, Descartes’ CEO. “By combining BestTransport’s platform with our Global Logistics Network, we can offer additional solutions to the community, such as Descartes MacroPoint Visibility and Capacity Matching. We welcome the BestTransport team of domain experts and community of customers to Descartes.”

BestTransport is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Descartes acquired BestTransport for $11.2 million, net of working capital, satisfied from Descartes’ existing line of credit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ATA Freight Forecast projects 25.6% increase in tonnage by 2030

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations Wednesday released its latest ATA Freight Transportation Forecast: 2019 to 2030, an annual projection of the state of the freight economy, showing continued growth in the industry.

“America’s trucking industry, and the overall freight transportation industry, are poised to experience strong growth over the next decade as the country’s economy and population grow,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Our annual Freight Forecast is a valuable look at where we are headed so leaders in business and government can make important decisions about investments and policy.”

Among the findings in this year’s Freight Forecast:

  • Overall freight tonnage will grow to 20.6 billion tons in 2030, up 25.6% from 2019’s projection of 16.4 billion tons.
  • Freight industry revenues will increase 53.8% to $1.601 trillion over the next decade.
  • Trucking’s share of total freight tonnage will dip to 68.8% in 2030 from 71.1% this year, even as tonnage grows to 14.2 billion tons in 2030 from 11.7 billion tons.
  • Truckload volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.5% a year through 2024 and 2.1% for 2025-2029.
  • Less than truckload volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.8% through 2024 and 2% for 2025-2020.
  • Private carrier volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.5% percent year through 2024 and 2.2% per year for 2025-2029.
  • In 2019, truckload will handle 71.1% of truck freight volume, LTL 0.9% and private truck 35.1%
  • Trucking and total rail transportation will lose relative market share, even as revenues and tonnage grows, while intermodal rail, air and domestic waterborne transportation will show modest growth and pipeline transportation will experience explosive growth – surging 17.1% in tonnage and 8.6% in revenue over the next decade.

As with any industry, forecasts are in part based on what’s happening with the U.S. economy.

The executive summary of the Freight Forecast notes that the forecast is being released when the U.S.  economy is experiencing some volatility as uncertainties mount.

“Despite prospects for solid trend-like growth in the U.S. in 2019, investor concerns over rising risks of a downturn after 2019, stoked by developments abroad and policy concerns, resulted in sharply worsening financial conditions in late 2018.

“Helped by a dovish pivot in Federal Reserve Board monetary policy, a recovery in financial conditions is now supporting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth above trend. The second estimate of first-quarter 2019 U.S. GDP growth was 3.1%, up from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and in line with the strong 2.9% economic growth for 2018. The healthy economy in 2018 resulted in a very strong freight market for the year.

“The robust first-quarter pace of 2019 economic growth is expected to be temporary, as it was driven by two sources of strength that could easily reverse later this year: inventory investment and net exports. Both components are volatile and rarely indicative of underlying momentum in the economy.

“Real 2019 GDP growth is expected to moderate beginning in the second quarter, and we look for a 2.7% increase for calendar year 2019. We predict annual real GDP growth will slow further to 2.1% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021, with implications for slower growth in freight transportation demand.

“Freight Forecast clearly lays out why meeting challenges like infrastructure and workforce development are so critical to our industry’s success,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “It belongs on the desk of every decision maker in our industry and in the supply chain.”

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