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2/9/2016 10:35:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

XPO CEO: No Strong Case For Recession

XPO Logistics

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,” said Jacobs, who as chief executive officer of XPO Logistics Inc. controls 11,000 trucks in North America and brokers freight for companies.

XPO Logistics ranks No. 14 on the Transport Topics list of the Top 100 largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada. The company is expected to climb to as high as No. 3 after its 2015 acquisition of Con-way Inc., which had been ranked No. 4.

XPO could have sold off Con-way's Truckload unit, but speaking at an investor conference in Florida, Jacobs said, "We decided not to sell it because we didn’t want to buy high and sell [the truckload unit] low. There is strategic importance to keep it. There are big opportunities for synergies from cross-selling. It helps us with positioning. We haven't done that with truckload because we hadn't decided whether to sell it. There is an opportunity to improve [profitability] quite a bit."

He didn’t give specifics.

History suggests that it’s Jacobs’ 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 American Trucking Associations.

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By Thomas Black
Bloomberg News

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