Sep 17, 2019 - Economy

RV shipments decline as Trump administration touts economic "boom"

An RV park.

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow projected a sustainable "boom" in the U.S. economy this summer, sales in the recreational-vehicle industry have been trending downward, signaling possible economic turmoil to come, Bloomberg writes.

Why it matters: The last 3 recessions (which began in July 1990, March 2001 and December 2007) were all foreshadowed by slumps in RV manufacturers’ shipments. While, as Bloomberg writes, "that’s not a big sample size, and there were modest RV-shipment dips in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s that turned out not to precede recessions," the drop-off in RV purchases could be a sign of consumers growing less optimistic about their financial futures.

Background: In June 2018, RV manufacturers shipped 11.4% fewer trailers and vehicles than in the year prior. And aside from a slight rebound this July, shipments have continued to dip.

Reality check: The Wall Street Journal reports that many manufacturers believe the slump is a result of overproduction after a boost in demand in 2017 that didn't continue into the following year.

    • Bloomberg adds: "RV shipments by manufacturers aren’t the same thing as RV sales, and a decline in the former might represent overproduction by manufacturers or over-ordering by dealers rather than an actual drop in consumer demand."

Between the lines: The sales slowdown also comes as manufacturers hiked prices to counterbalance increased production costs amid the U.S.-China trade war.

  • Estimates say more than 500 RV-related goods could be affected by increased tariffs, including aluminum and steel, along with amenities such as toilet seat covers and hides for leather furniture.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Felix Salmon: RV shipments are slipping from "off the charts great" to merely "very strong." Directionally, that's bad, but we're still in a fundamentally healthy economy.

Go deeper: The synchronized global slump

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