According to this article in The Wall Street Journal, " Shipping companies are considered a barometer of economic health, which makes the current downturn particularly worrisome."
Other depressing comments from this article:
"In part because of high fuel prices, 1,905 trucking companies ceased operations during the first half of the year, according to Donald Broughton, a research analyst at Nashville, Tenn.-based investment bank Avondale Partners. By the end of 2008, as many as an additional 2,000 of the more than 200,000 for-hire trucking concerns in the U.S. are expected to fail, he says. Gainey Corp., a Grand Rapids, Mich., carrier with 2,200 trucks and more than $400 million in annual revenue, sought bankruptcy-court protection last week."
"Ocean transport is also under pressure. The number of shipping containers entering the U.S. through its top 10 container ports between January and September was 7.2% lower than it was during the year-earlier period, according to Paul Bingham, managing director of HIS Global Insights, which tracks port data. Such containers typically carry consumer goods ranging from apparel to electronics."
"Union Pacific Corp., the largest railroad in the U.S., said Thursday that fourth-quarter freight volumes will slide about 5%. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. said third-quarter volume had slipped 1.5%. The nation's top four railroads -- Union Pacific, Burlington Northern, Norfolk Southern Corp., and CSX Corp. -- all reported third-quarter drops in volumes from last year. "It's going to be a tough year in 2009" for the economy, said James Young, chief executive of Union Pacific. "Consumers have pulled back even more, and we're going to manage the company accordingly."