Cass Freight Index Showed Economic Weakness Way Before the Pandemic


Numerous freight charts point to a weakening economy months before the coronavirus hit.

I Hear the Train a Comin'

Covid19 will take all of the blame, but freight indicators show a recession was on the way even without that massive economic disruption.

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Please consider the March 2020 Cass Freight Indexes.

The Cass Freight Index showed a weak U.S. freight market to end 2019 and to start 2020, and just as we were seeing signs of coming off the bottom, we get the coronavirus and all related smacks to an economy that was already struggling to gain traction.

This has quickly gone from a China production concern to a U.S. (and global) consumer spending problem. No business, no jobs, and no income for many leads to much less freight moving around.

US Rail Volume Comps - Cass March 2020

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Truckload linehaul rates - Cass March 2020

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This index turned lower in mid-2019.

Cass Truckload linehaul Index - March 2020

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Intermodal Volumes Cass - March 2020

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Cass Conclusion

All historical truckload and intermodal data was restated in November 2019, with an extremely high correlation to the previous data.

We hope the Cass Indexes bottom in April, and the quicker businesses can reopen, the better readings we should see in May and June.

Unrealistic Hope

There is no harm to hope, but expecting a quick, sustained recovery is another matter.

Ever since Cass outsourced production of this report to Stifel, the Csss report been one of rampant overoptimism.

The original writers (named Cass) were sounding recession signals whereas Stifel writer David G. Ross, spoke of signs of a freight bottom for the last few months.

We can never prove which view is correct, but seeing signs of a bottom in a recovery that was already the longest in history seems more than a bit questionable.

Realistically, we should now toss ideas of a bottom in April and face the fact the Covid-19 Recession Will Be Deeper Than the Great Financial Crisis.

Don't expect a V-shaped recovery.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (13)
No. 1-5

Mish - you mean no V shaped recovery in the economy.. Stock market is a different story since that seems to be driven mainly by what the FED does.. Economy can be in a depression yet the stock market would be hitting all time highs. No?

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

"The Cass Freight Index showed a weak U.S. freight market to end 2019 and to start 2020"


January and February helped by mild weather.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

"We hope the Cass Indexes bottom in April, and the quicker businesses can reopen, the better readings we should see in May and June."


Yes, by all means businesses will reopen like a light switch.

Never mind the 20 million or so lost jobs, destroyed supply chains, leverage to the hilt biz paying bills for a month ... or two ... on non existent revenue, consumers attitudes going forward, etc.

Fast forward to June / July everything will be back to normal ...


t is a slow day in the small Saskatchewan town of Pumphandle, and streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit.

A tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night. As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Co-op.

The guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her "services" on credit.

The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.

The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the traveler will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 bill and leaves. No one produced anything. No one earned anything...

However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a Stimulus package works.


This year was finally about to crack the everything bubble...and then the virus hit. The central banking cabal have an escape route for now, i.e. blame the virus.

Global Economics