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Freight yard

Electrical Marketing’s Leading Economic Indicators - February 2018

Feb. 23, 2018
Multi-family permits and rig counts jump, PMI and freight traffic slip slightly

Multi-family building permits see nice jump in January. Building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,396,000. This is +7.4% above both the revised December rate of 1.3 million and the January 2017 rate of 1.3 million. Single-family authorizations in January were at a rate of 866,000, -1.7% below the revised December figure of 881,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 479,000 in January, +25.4% above December.

Purchasing Managers Index slips slightly in January. The Institute for Supply Management’s most recent Manufacturing ISM Report on Business said its January Purchasing Managers Index registered 59.1%, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the December reading of 59.3%.

Permian Basin continues to lead the U.S. in drilling activity. The Baker-Hughes Rig Count continues to show some impressive year-over-year growth for oil drilling activity, but the majority of that growth is occurring in Texas’ Permian Basin. While the United States had 798 oil rigs working through Feb. 16 — 224 more rigs than last year at this time for a 34% YOY increase, approximately 64% (433 rigs) are in the Permian Basin. North Dakota’s Williston Basin also showed some good YOY growth, but not on the scale of the famed West Texas oil field with 13 more rigs operating for a 13% increase.

Freight rail traffic shows slight decline for 2018 year-to-date. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) said that for the first six weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,468,463 carloads, down 2.9% from the same point last year; and 1,578,628 intermodal units, up 3.5% from last year. Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included nonmetallic minerals, up 2,046 carloads to 31,551; chemicals, up 1,224 carloads to 31,782; and metallic ores and metals, up 1,010 carloads to 20,396. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 were coal, down 3,729 carloads to 85,591; motor vehicles and parts down 1,980 carloads to 16,693; and grain down 1,442 carloads, to 19,035.