Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is the resilient North American market wavering?

The North American economy has remained resilience throughout this year’s global economic malaise. However, is this changing? Increasing labor concerns at US ports have resulted in strikes in some ports and uncertainty in other ports. How is this affecting trade? The continuing US “fiscal cliff” debate has resulted in slowing business investment and consumer spending. How will this affect logistics and transportation providers that operate in North America?

Ti’s newest addition to its Logistics Monitor collection, North America Logistics Monitor, covers these questions and more.  The North American economy has indeed remained resilient. Manufacturing was good across the region as demand for automobiles increased which resulted in increases in export and cross-border activity. However, declines in November manufacturing activity were noted in Canada and the US. Although Canada’s activity remained above the 50-mark which denotes expansion, US activity actually contracted. This may be attributed to the uncertainty of the “fiscal cliff” outcome. Mexico, however, bucked the trend as manufacturing increased due to demand in automobiles, televisions and other high tech goods.

Labor concerns at US ports are of great concern. Strikes were recently settled at Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. Portland narrowly averted a strike. These disruptions resulted in freight diversion to other US West Coast posts as well as to Canadian and Mexican ports. East and Gulf coast ports may face a similar fate in January as talks continue. Shippers, along with their logistics and transportation partners, are certainly making alternate plans just in case a strike is to occur in January.

Finally, the uncertainty in the economy has increased as business investment slows and consumer spending remains cautious. The US government continues to work on solutions to avoid the estimated $600bn in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin in January if not resolved by the end of this year. Not only has the uncertainty spread throughout the US economy but also has added to the global economic uncertainty. In fact, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that the U.S. has a duty “to try to remove uncertainty and doubt as quickly as possible” regarding the fiscal cliff. “The U.S. has an economic leadership in the world. To protect that, to make sure that leadership endures, this uncertainty has to be removed, because uncertainty fuels doubt as to that leadership.”

Despite the concerning economy, logistics and transportation providers that operate in North America are benefiting from cross-border activity, intermodal growth and the growing demand for ecommerce logistics. Mergers and acquisitions are strong particularly within the trucking segment as truck brokerage and expansion into new domestic tradelanes seem to be of special interest.

The new North America Logistics Monitor is a monthly analysis of the trends affecting the logistics and transportation market in Canada, Mexico and the US.  Along with a regional overview and country-specific analysis, the report also includes charts from Ti’s Dashboard service. The report serves as a quick and easy reference for decision makers to monitor this important region.
Other Logistics Monitors include the Global Logistics Monitor and coming in January, 2013, the Asia Pacific Logistics Monitor.