Transportation Space Highlights Last Week’s M&A Activity
Data from Pitchbook shows that $15.2 billion of capital was invested across 29 M&A deals last week, $4.4 billion less capital on two more deals than the previous week. The largest two deals during the week were Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners’ $3.6 billion LBO of Oryx Midstream Partners and the $2.44 billion acquisition of AmeriGas Partners by UGI Utilities. AmeriGas is a publicly traded propane distributor, and Oryx is a natural gas collection group. The transportation space was an active sector, as A&S Kinard and Buckler Transport were acquired by Day & Ross Freight; TFI International acquired Nebraska-based Aulick Leasing and its manufacturing business, ShurAul; and Providence Equity Partners acquired transportation software provider GlobalTranz.
In last week’s economic news, US job openings reached a record high at 7.3 million, marking 1.2 jobs available for every unemployed person. However, despite the record-breaking job market, the week’s most notable news was a relatively steep decline in retail sales during the month of December. US retail sales dropped 1.2% during the month, or the greatest percent decline in more than nine years.
The U.S. job market added over 300,000 jobs while wages grew 3.2% for the last twelve months. The job market has been a shining spot in an economy facing rising rates, tariffs, and slowing global growth. New home sales grew dramatically month-to-month in November but are still slumped 7.7% from a year before. Lastly, the Institute for Supply Management showed that manufacturing growth is expanding at a faster rate in the first month of the new year, thanks to increased production and new orders.
The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s December meeting were released, showing the board’s reluctance to increase interest rates amid weakening inflationary pressures and slowing global growth. The Bureau of Labor statistics furthered this point when releasing its December Consumer Price Index, which revealed the first monthly decrease in prices in nine months. The inflationary gauge did rise on an annualized basis, albeit slower than in prior months. Also, unemployment insurance claims fell unexpectedly in the first week of the new year.
Two surveys on U.S. manufacturing activity suggest a dramatic slowdown in the sector. HIS Markit’s manufacturing PMI revealed a subtle 1.5-point drop to a 15-month low, while the Institute for Supply Management’s PMI experienced a one-month decline of 5.2 points, the greatest in 10 years. Despite waning manufacturing activity, the job market experienced an unexpected surge as 312,000 jobs were added, 136,000 more than expected, while the unemployment rate rose slightly and wage gains posted a nine-year higher.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by a marginal amount last week, continuing a downward trend towards the 49-year low set in September. Chicago’s manufacturing activity slowed last month, although only slightly, due to slip-ups in new orders, employment and supplier deliveries indices. The Conference Board’s December consumer confidence index revealed a sharply lower measure from November, as market volatility and lower economic growth expectations alarm consumers.
Last week saw the Bureau of Labor Statistics release nonfarm payroll figures that fell well short of expectations and pulled the three-month average to a 12-month low. Further, the unemployment stayed the same for the third straight month at 3.7%, and wage growth was at 3.1% for the second straight month. The total net worth among U.S. households broke to a record high in the third quarter after a 1.9% rise in net asset values. Last, the Commerce Department released October’s trade deficit report, showing the foreign trade gap widen by 1.7% to a ten-year high.
November’s final Consumer Sentiment reading fell more than expected to 97.5 points, continuing a slide off of March’s fourteen-year-high reading of 101.4. New housing starts grew last month amid rising tariff-related costs for builders, driven by new construction of multi-family housing units. Lastly, initial unemployment claims rose suddenly to a four-month high of 224,000, despite continuing claims falling to 1.67 million, a level not seen since the early 1970s.
Last week brought third quarter GDP results that narrowly beat economists’ expectations, thanks, in part, to strong annualized consumer spending and low inflation. The Personal Consumption Expenditure price index, which is used by the Fed, underperformed the Fed target in October. However, the Producer-Price Index grew 2.9% annually, driven by producer and supplier margin increases. The JOLT Survey revealed that job openings decreased slightly in September, while the economy yielded a significant net employment gain.
Last week’s economic news showed consumer confidence reaching a sudden 18-year high, lending hope to the possibility of continued economic expansion. Also, worker productivity grew only slightly in October, thanks in part to employers’ need to hire lower-skilled workers. On Friday, the Labor Department announced job growth far exceeded expectations, unemployment held constant, and wage growth also increased.