The Chemical Activity Barometer, published monthly by the American Chemistry Council since 1919, has jumped 3% in the past 3 months, and is up 2.5% in the past year. This strongly suggests that industrial production - which has been quite weak for the past year or so (due in part to the big slowdown in oil drilling and exploration) - will pick up in coming months. This should go hand in hand with stronger GDP numbers over the course of the year as well. Definitely good news.
The chart above shows the Chemical Barometer Activity index for the past 8 years. The recent uptick is significant.
The chart above shows the index going back to 1960. It tracks overall economic activity pretty closely.
The index also appears to do a good job of leading the growth in industrial production, and by inference, the overall economy. For more detailed information, see Calculated Risk.
Truck tonnage, shown in the chart above, has also picked up this year. The February spike had looked a bit anomalous, but the May reading confirms that activity has picked up over the course of the year. Chemical activity and truck tonnage both track actual physical activity in the economy, and both are pointing to improvement.
The chart above compares truck tonnage with the inflation-adjusted S&P 500 index. Both look on track for further gains.