Traffic levels, a key indicator of the state of the economy, are "all over the road", with light traffic levels looking weak, while heavy traffic is robust, according to a bank report.
The latest ANZ Truckometer fell 1 per cent in July, pointing to a weak economy in the June quarter, after a surprise 1.1 per cent GDP gain in the March quarter.
It looks like the trend in traffic flows around the country has been flat since the start of 2010, the latest ANZ report shows.
But it was a mixed picture recently.
While light traffic fell 2.1 per cent in July, heavy traffic flows rose almost 4 per cent- pointing in opposite directions for the economy which is being buffeted by a worsening global picture, but a better outlook for commodity prices.
The Truckometer is seen as an indicator of momentum and turning points in the economy, rather than a predictor of what gross domestic product will be in a given quarter.
But the historical match of the trend in traffic to both the change and level of GDP is "remarkable" and should not be lightly discounted, ANZ says.
The willingness to buy and drive a car is the ultimate measure of "money where your mouth is" consumer confidence. That is seen in levels of light traffic and the confidence it reflects shows up in other spending, hiring and investment decisions which are captured in GDP figures six months later.
The light traffic part of the overall Truckometer index fell 2.1 per cent in July after holding up in June, a figure ANZ said was not particularly encouraging.
Falling light traffic levels at the end of last year suggest GDP may be negative in the June quarter, flat in the September quarter, but then lift to about 1 per cent growth in the December quarter.
But heavy traffic flows rose 3.8 per cent in July, after falling back 8.3 per cent in the previous month, when the unusually long dairy season came to a sudden end.
The trend in heavy traffic looks "encouragingly robust" ANZ said.
Heavy traffic flows for vehicles above 3.5 tonnes typically move in time with GDP figures rather than ahead of any changes, as trucks are moving products. That raised the hope that due to strong primary production the economy might side-step the mid-2012 pothole that the light traffic figures suggested was in store, ANZ said.
The heavy traffic figures suggested growth of up to 1 per cent for the quarter, rather than the fall in GDP suggested by earlier light traffic figures.
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