A key monthly index of U.S. shipping activity rose in September, with one sub-component reaching a level not seen since May 2008, according to the firm publishing the index.
The index, published by freight audit and payment firm Cass Information Systems, is based on the expenditures and shipments of Cass's clients. In September, the freight expenditure index came in at 2.031, up from 1.97 in August and the first time the expenditures index has surpassed the 2.00 mark since the spring of 2008, before the financial crisis hit with full force.
The shipment index reached 1.116, up from 1.097 in August, Cass said.
The shipment index grew 15.5 percent year over year, while the expenditures index increased 30.5 percent over September 2009. Both increases were slightly below the year-over-year gains the index marked in August.
Thomas R. Wadewitz, transport analyst at JPMorgan Chase, said the sequential gains in the shipment index reflect continued demand for trucking services leading into peak season. However, Wadewitz cautioned that carrier executives have recently been expressing caution over demand trends in September.
As for expenditures, the sequential gains indicate an environment of "flat to modestly improving" pricing outside of fuel surcharges, Wadewitz said. That's because expenditures have been growing at a faster clip than shipments while fuel prices have remained relatively stable, he said.