Cass Freight Index Highest Since November 2007

by: Mark J. Perry

I've only reported a few times before on the Cass Freight Index, so here's some background:

Starting in 1990, Cass Information Systems has calculated a monthly broad-based freight index for North America shipping activity based on the freight transactions it processes for 350 large shippers in a wide variety of industries, and the index is widely used by industry analysts and economists as an accurate barometer of North American shipping and economic trends. The diversity of shippers and aggregate volume provide a statistically valid representation of North American shipping activity.

The index was recently updated for September, and the Cass Freight Index was close to a four-year high in September, with more shipments in any single month since November 2007, the month before the recession started and right before the freight index plunged to the lowest level in its 20-year history (see chart above). Compared to last year, shipping volume improved in September of this year by 7.5%, and also showed a strong 5% gain compared to the previous month of August.

Now that U.S. intermodal rail shipments through September are back to pre-recession levels, and the Cass Freight Index in September is also back to pre-recession levels for broader-based shipping activity, these strong and ongoing shipping improvements would seem to defy the case for an economic downturn or double-dip recession.