The Chemical Activity Barometer, published monthly by the American Chemistry Council since 1919, is up a solid 3.9% in the past year. This strongly suggests that industrial production—which has been quite weak for the past year or so (due in large part to the big slowdown in oil drilling and exploration)—will pick up in coming months. This should go hand in hand with stronger GDP numbers over the course of the year.
And as the chart above shows, it indeed looks like Industrial Production is beginning to turn up after almost 18 months of decline.
Two months ago I noted that truck tonnage (above chart) had also picked up. However, it has since dropped back down to where it started the year. Although it's not weak enough to suggest a budding recession, neither is it strong enough to suggest any fundamental improvement in the economy's growth trend. So there's not enough here to get excited about a fundamentally stronger economy. More likely, we will just see a continuation of a growth trend somewhat in excess of 2% per year—a disappointing, sub-par economy, but at least an economy that continues to grow.