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North American freight movements remained meager in November, Cass says

North American freight shipments dipped in November, a downtick that was expected because the same weak year-end volumes have been observed for the past three years, according to Cass Information Systems Inc.'s Cass Freight Index Report™ for November.

"Stronger-than-expected manufacturing activity and shipments of seasonal goods offset a general slowing of freight movements to temper the drop in shipment levels," Cass officials said in the report.

The November shipment index declined 1 percent from October's mark, but marked improvement from the 3.5 percent drop from September to October, they said. On a year-over-year basis, the index rose 1.1 percent.

The National Retail Federation reported that Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales fell 2.7 percent, the first drop in seven years, the report states. Online sales were brisk, which bolstered small package shipments at November's end.

"Given the current high levels of inventory, it's not surprising that the number of shipments is not growing — even in spite of the anticipated 3.9 percent rise in holiday sales over last year," Cass officials said.

Overall, mixed economic signals still are evident as the end of the year approaches, they said.

"Many indicators have improved during the last several months, including new home sales, new jobs, new export orders, and manufacturing production, orders and backlog," they said. "Exports rose in recent months, but primarily based on the strength of oil product exports, [and] container exports and imports, largely aimed at the consumer market, have trended downward."

December likely will provide a meager finish to a relatively weak 2013 for the freight industry despite better than expected Gross Domestic Product growth in the third quarter, Cass officials predict.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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