A Shelter from the Storm?

Blogs Avery Vise February 3, 2013

By Avery Vise


Once again, Congress and the White House have largely put off the big decisions. Yes, they avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” — a crisis that they created. But essentially the only certainty is that taxes are going up on millions of Americans, not just on the wealthy.

The lack of a more comprehensive deal and the threat of another cliff-hanger leave in place many of the uncertainties that had slowed hiring and business investment. And with less disposable income due to higher taxes, consumer spending could weaken.

Fortunately, there’s one area in which a sustained recovery appears solid. Look at just about any indicator related to residential construction, and it’s clear that a rebound is under way.

This recovery will help the trucking industry, starting first with flatbed ­carriers and eventually trickling down to pretty much any fleet operating van equipment. There’s a fairly minor downside, however: Trucking draws from the same labor pool as home builders, so a rebound in housing could slow fleet growth.

Housing starts in December were at their highest level since June 2008, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Month-to-month data tends to be volatile, but housing starts have been up by double-digit percentages year over year every month since October 2011. Home builders believe the future is rosy because permits authorized for new residential housing are at their highest level since July 2008. Permits have risen year over year every month since May 2011.

A sustainable recovery in housing is virtually guaranteed.

The inventory of houses for sale is tightening severely. The supply of existing homes for sale is just 4.4 months based on current sales rates, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). That’s the tightest inventory since the height of the housing market in May 2005.

Avery Vise is executive director, trucking research and analysis for Randall-Reilly Business Media and also serves as senior editor, industry analysis for Commercial Carrier Journal. Previously, he was editorial director of Randall-Reilly’s Fleet/Dealer/Aftermarket group and had served as chief editor of CCJ for 10 years. From 1985 to 1998, Vise worked for McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week Group, covering Congress and the Department of Transportation for publications about the commercial aviation industry. He has received numerous awards from American Business Media and the American Society of Business Publication Editors for his coverage of the trucking industry. Vise is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with degrees in government and history.

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