The Philly Fed made investors concerned about the economy upon its release but another resource I use to gauge the strength of the economy -- the movement of railcars -- is confirming these bearish indications.
Obviously, commodities and goods have to be transported across the country in the supply chain to their final destination within the economy.
One can obviously see the pullback in the data during the financial crisis and recession, and the growth since then.
Now investors are left with the question of whether another recession is on the way, what with real GDP falling in the 4th Quarter of 2012.
Rail traffic has shown a contraction for most of 2013 and only recently made it up to unchanged. Even the growing "sectors" of rail traffic have witnessed a sharp drop compared to a year ago. This data is shown in the table below (using the 13 week moving average):
Baseline traffic is down 5.5% vs up .3% last year. Cyclical traffic is up only 2.6% vs 7.7% last year. Intermodal traffic is up only 2.1% vs 6.2% last year. Total traffic is flat vs a year ago; okay, up 22 rail cars but this rounded to zero in the table. Below is the table for 2012:
2012 Data Table Source: railfax.transmatch.com
Economic bulls better hope these numbers turn up soon because the data is in the bears' corner right now, and this is based upon actual economic transactions and not expectations.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.