Automotive sector still ‘pausing’ in May
July 16, 2012
The auto sector continued its ‘pause’, but it grew so strongly during Q4 and Q1 that it is still growing at a double-digit pace versus last year. The year-0ver-year growth rate jumped higher in April as we started overlapping the Japanese tsunami-induced decline of early 2011. Year-0ver-year growth is now above 15%. Automotive loadings were at 3.612 million in May, nearly unchanged from the prior month. The year-over-year gains are very strong, up 16.4% in May.
The automotive sector has paused recently, following a very strong spurt of growth from late 2011 through the first quarter of 2012. The weak spot should stretch through the summer/early fall before we start seeing sustained monthly increases again. Despite the pause we are at a relatively high level of activity. Sales volumes are not easing considerably so we are not overly concerned with the slowdown in month-to-month activity.
After small declines in 2006 and 2007 automotive freight dropped 11.9% in 2008 and a further 17.6% in 2009. Loadings jumped in mid-2009 but grew at a slower pace during 2010; however, annual growth in 2010 was strong at 11.3%. Volumes were stable for most of 2010 and 2011 before starting to move dramatically higher in October 2011. There was a modest reduction in volumes during 2011Q2 on the heels of Japanese supply disruptions. Since then, year-over-year gains have shown a dramatic surge with the last 2 quarters hitting double-digit growth. 2011 ended with an annual gain of 4.1%.
Automotive production was at a high level during the early and mid-2000′s but it was not in a growth mode. Production and sales are at a lower level right now have been growing and are contributing a significant amount of growth to this recovery.
Volumes are expected to flatten over the next couple of quarters but will remain at a very high level. The near-term pause is likely to keep year-over-year growth under 20%. After that the prior year comparisons will be reduced but the market should still see strong volumes. We expect to see growth above the industry average for the next few years.
After the 2011 gain of 4.1% we should see very strong growth in 2012, up 12.9%. Growth will then slow down but remain above the industry average, up 5.2% in 2013 and 6.5% in 2014.
Automotive is mainly movements of component parts but also includes both finished autos and other transportation equipment. FTR’s data is seasonally adjusted and measures both short and long-haul OTR segments.
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