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While tonnage rose in January, a report showed a steep drop in U.S. retail sales in December.

Truck tonnage starts 2019 on a positive note

A separate report shows largest drop for retail sales in more than nine years during December.

Truck tonnage started 2019 on a positive note, gaining 2.3 percent in January from the prior month.

The seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index was also 5.5 percent higher than January 2018, American Trucking Associations reported.

“After monthly declines in both November and December, tonnage snapped back in January,” said Bob Costello, ATA's chief economist. Costello added there is likely to be “some moderation in tonnage this year as most of the key sectors that generate truck freight tonnage are expected to decelerate.”

Despite the late-year dip, the tonnage index for all of 2018 increased 6.7 percent over 2017, the largest annual gain since 1998. January's reading left the index at 117.3, up from 114.7. The baseline reading of 100 is from 2015.

ATA also said the not seasonally adjusted index, representing the actual change in tonnage hauled before seasonal adjustments, was 2.9 percent above December. 

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years. 

The report, delayed due to the federal government shutdown, showed retail sales fell 1.2 percent, the largest decline since September 2009. 

Sales were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales gaining 0.2 percent in December. 

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, “core” retail sales dropped 1.7 percent, the biggest fall since September 2001. This suggests a cooling in the pace of consumer spending in the fourth quarter. 

This data appeared to be in line with statistics from the National Retail Federation, which showed total holiday spending in 2018 grew 2.9 percent to $707.5 billion, though sales in December fell 1.5 percent from November.
 
 

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