January 13, 2016 4:00 PM, EST
US Transportation Activity Varied at Close of Year, Fed Says
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Transportation activity varied throughout the country at the end of 2015, but general economic conditions improved in much of the country, the Federal Reserve reported.

From late November to early January, economic activity expanded in nine of the 12 Federal Reserve districts, the Fed said in its Beige Book report released Jan. 13. The survey is based on reports gathered by regional Fed banks to give an anecdotal picture of the economy.

The Fed releases its Beige Book report eight times a year. This report covered Nov. 20 through Jan. 4 and was prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The Atlanta, Minneapolis and Dallas regions noted a surge in e-commerce shipment, and parcel companies in St. Louis reported record holiday-related demand.

Some St. Louis district contacts in the trucking industry reported plans to hire new drivers and said low fuel prices were boosting revenue, the Fed said.

Ports in the Richmond District reported vehicle imports were strong.

Atlanta region ports cited strong imports in retail goods year-over-year, but noted softening in exports.

“Strength was noted in auto cargo shipments and in demand along the U.S.-Mexico border, but demand from interior areas of Texas was weak. Courier cargo volumes increased during the reporting period, driven by growth in retail [particularly e-commerce] and nondurable wholesale [particularly apparel],” the Fed said in the report.

There were general transportation declines in the Cleveland and Kansas City districts attributed to the weakness in the steel and energy sectors, the Fed said.

“Our contacts are fairly pessimistic and see little growth in volume along seasonal trends during 2016,” the Federal Reserve said. About the Cleveland District, it said, “One contact noted he is hopeful the current inventory glut will be reduced, a situation which would provide a needed lift to the freight industry.”