The UCLA Anderson School of Management reports the Pulse of Commerce Index Falls 0.9 percent in May.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ (PCI), issued today by the UCLA Anderson School of Management and Ceridian Corporation fell 0.9 percent on a seasonally and workday adjusted basis in May, after falling 0.5 percent in April. The index has now declined in four of the first five months of 2011, and in eight of the past twelve months. It is clear that the economy is idling, and growth remains a struggle.

The index is based on real-time fuel consumption data for over the road trucking and serves as an indicator of the current state and possible future direction of the U.S. economy. By tracking the volume and location of diesel fuel being purchased, the index closely monitors the over the road movement of produce, raw materials, goods-in-process and finished goods to U.S. factories, retailers and consumers.

Year-over-Year Growth of PCI

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On a year over year basis, the PCI was flat in May. This was disappointing in that it ended a string of seventeen straight months of year over year improvement in the index. One glimmer of good news is that May of last year was the strongest month of 2010, and this month’s result nearly cleared that hurdle. Nevertheless, the PCI showed no growth, and this is another indication that the economy is stuck in neutral.

Stuck in the Mud

At first glance, May 2010 appears to be a particularly difficult comparison. However, it only looks that was because May of 2009 was particularly pathetic. Note that May of 2010 did not fully recover the declines from a year earlier.

On that basis, should the index stall here, stuck in the mud seems more like the sad state of affairs than does stuck in neutral.

Here is another way of looking at things.

Industrial Production vs. Ceridian PCI

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Neither Industrial Production nor the Ceridian PCI fully recovered from the recession even though the “recovery” is now 26 months in the making.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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