When the bell rings to open the stock market, one of the most important opening notes every quarter is the chiming in from investors with trucking company J.B. Hunt. The trucking industry itself is a respected indicator of the broader economy. And most financial experts follow the trends in this sector religiously.

JB Hunt’s earnings report is the telltale Bellwether leading the financial sector, and by extension the entire global economy. Recently, J.B. Hunt Transport Services reported a decrease in profits and sales due to a drop in freight demand compared to the previous year. 

“Company President Sherry Simpson said J.B. Hunt was focused on its people, technology and capacity but added inflation and slowing imports are dragging at the company’s bottom line. ‘We’re in a freight recession,’ Simpson said.”

The CEO acknowledged the challenging environment and sees opportunities despite the current situation. 

Missed Earnings

The Lowell-based transportation company reported net income of $198 million, or $1.87 per share for the quarter ended March 31, down nearly 19% compared to $243 million or $2.29 per share for the year ago period. A consensus of 20 analysts predicted first quarter earnings per share of $2.02, according to Yahoo Finance.

However, the company’s bottom line is being affected by inflation and slowing imports. The executives mentioned that J.B. Hunt is focused on people, technology, and capacity, and is well-positioned for when demand returns to normal. 

If trucking is a Bellwether for the broader financial sector, then the Fed has self-determined that it is the shepherd. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has been bearish on the U.S. market for months and has been working hard to bring down corollary inflation that is softening freight levels. NPR reports that:

‘”You cling to the idea that there’s only one solution: Lay off millions of workers. We need a Fed that will fight for families.’’ Powell noted that the unemployment rate is currently at a half-century low, 3.4%, while families are paying a high price for inflation. “We are taking the only measures we have to bring inflation down,” the Fed chairman told Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Will working people be better off if we just walk away from our job and inflation remains 5-6%?”

More broadly across the markets, customers are cautious as they try to anticipate consumer demand and the direction of the economy. 

Nevertheless, JB Hunt brass remains optimistic: “It’s not really a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said about demand returning to normal.