Economic Caution Flag Waves at U.S. Truckers: Chart of the Day

Trucking companies are failing to show the kind of growth typical of an expanding U.S. economy, according to Christian Wetherbee, a Citigroup Inc. analyst.

Shipments by truckload carriers this month are “barely positive” by comparison with a year ago and little changed from July, Wetherbee wrote yesterday in a report. The companies ship entire tractor-trailers of goods on behalf of one customer.

As the CHART OF THE DAY depicts, the findings contrasted with the performance of a tonnage index compiled by the American Trucking Association. The index climbed 4.1 percent in July from a year ago, the 32nd straight monthly increase.

More than one company attributed August’s weakness to a faltering economy and doubts about the outcome of November’s presidential election, Wetherbee wrote. They added that the industry’s results for September might not be any better, according to the report.

Rising fuel costs are hurting truckers along with the lack of shipment growth, the New York-based analyst wrote. The daily national average price of diesel fuel exceeded $4 a gallon last week for the first time in three months, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

Wetherbee reduced third-quarter earnings estimates for Knight Transportation Inc., Swift Transportation Co. and Werner Enterprises Inc. by 1 cent a share to account for the worsening outlook. He maintained buy ratings on Knight and Werner and a neutral view of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and Swift.

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