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Bloomberg | Key U.S. Recession Predictor Is Missing From Nation's Highways

02.12.16 | Thomas Black, Bloomberg

As a serial entrepreneur based in Greenwich, Connecticut, Bradley Jacobs hangs out with the big-money crowd dominated by hedge fund and private-equity types. The tenor of their conversations, he’s observed, has suddenly grown pessimistic with many now fretting the economy’s sinking into recession. As the owner of a trucking business (his latest venture), Jacobs also hears directly from a very different set: retailers across America. The buzz from them is decidedly more upbeat, what he calls “closet positive.”

In the “sense that it’s not fashionable right now to be positive,” says Jacobs, who as chief executive officer of XPO Logistics Inc. controls 11,000 trucks in North America and brokers freight for companies.

History suggests that it’s Jacobs’s optimistic trucking-industry buddies, not the smart-money guys, who have it right. For truck cargo data has proven to be a reliable predictor of future economic activity, with a steady string of monthly freight declines preceding each of the past five U.S. recessions. There’s no real sign of that kind of downturn now. Since early 2013, the tonnage hauled by trucks hasn’t fallen even one month, when compared with the year-earlier period, according to the American Trucking Associations.

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