One of America's biggest trucking companies is getting squeezed by Trump's trade war

  • JB Hunt missed revenue and profit expectations for the first quarter, sending shares down more than 4%
  • The company cited the Trump administration’s tariffs as a factor behind the weak results.
  • Watch JB Hunt trade live.

The effect of President Donald Trump’s trade war are beginning to show up in corporate results. The trucking company JB Hunt mentioned the tariffs as a factor when discussing its weak first-quarter results on its earnings call Monday. Shares were down more than 4% following the results.

While an array of concerns were cited, the trucking company highlighted particular weakness in the major West Coast market. On the call, management said the supply of Chinese goods has slowed due to the threat of tariffs. The additional tariffs, which were supposed to go into effect March 1, would have raised prices on Chinese imports, decreasing US demand.

“West Coast was down versus what we anticipated,” said JB Hunt Executive Vice President Terrence Matthews. “I think the data that we’ve seen is that China in February, not only between – because of Chinese New Year but because of the potential tariffs that were supposed to go in in March 1st. Goods shipped, I think, is down 20%-plus now to see that land into a much slower West Coast volume.”

As part of its trade strategy, the Trump administration placed tariffs on $US250 billion of Chinese goods coming to the US. China has responded with tariffs on $US120 billion of US goods, which are focused on agricultural, and politically sensitive, states such as Ohio.

The Trump administration has also threatened to place tariffs on the remaining $US255 billion of Chinese goods, amounting to more than $US500 billion annually. The implementation of those additional tariffs has been extended several times as negotiations continue.

The trade war is costing US consumers over $US1 billion per month, according to a study by economists at the Federal Reserve, Princeton, and Columbia University.

The weakness cited by JB Hunt is a clear indication that the tariffs are starting to show real affects on a wide variety of sectors, including agriculture and trucking. JB Hunt is based in Arkansas, but operates throughout the country.

In an additional sign of a cooling economy, JB Hunt cited an overall softening of demand for truck drivers.

“There is still some tight markets out there, Northern Cal, the PNW, Chicago, Ohio, through to the Northeast, where we still have some extra incentives zone to hire drivers,” Matthews said. “But in the rest of the areas, it softened up. We’re not taken wage reductions with drivers, but it’s eased up some.”

Recently, there has been some debate as to whether the US has been suffering from a “truck-driver shortage.” The industry research group The American Transportation Research Institute has been sounding the alarm on a driver shortage, which it ranked as the top industry concern for the second year in a row.

However, a recent report from the Bureau of Labour Statistics found evidence opposing that view.

JB Hunt was up 9% year to date.

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