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Global Freight Volumes Confirm Stagnation and Indicate Near-Term Decline

The latest global freight data collected by the International Transport Forum at the OECD, through September 2011, highlight concerns over macroeconomic stagnation:

- Freight volumes, measured in tonnes of goods moved, indicate a macroeconomic stagnation. External trade by sea in the EU-27 and the USA have stagnated below pre-crisis levels (-4%, -5%);

-  EU-27 and USA trade by air, considered as a lead indicator, suggests near-term decline. Exports by air in the EU-27 fall back at their pre-crisis (June 2008) levels;

-  USA and EU-27 exports by sea to Asia (especially China) improved since Jun-11. However, trade by air faltered as exports stagnated and imports declined, contributing to the sense of weakening domestic demand;

-  Inland freight transport volumes continued to recover, albeit slowly for road freight in Europe.

The overall picture for global freight is one of stagnation. Total external trade (in tonnes) by sea has stagnated below pre-crisis levels both in the United States (-5%) and EU27 (-4%), according to preliminary estimates of tonnes of goods carried until September 2011. The decline in air cargo continues and volumes are now only 4% above pre-crisis levels in the EU area and 1% in the United States. Exports by air from Europe have fallen and remained at their pre-crisis level since June-11.

Dependency on Asia-led growth increases. Exports to Asia, and more specifically China, by sea continued to increase in the EU-27 and the USA. The latest monthly data (September 2011) show that exports by sea from the United States and the EU-27 to Asia are now 17% and 28% above their pre-crisis levels respectively. However, EU and USA trade by air with Asia and China declined as growth rates for exports slowed and imports fell. Imports from Asia by air have been falling since April 2011 both in the EU-27 and USA.

Advanced economies' demand remains weak. Imports by sea to USA and EU-27 have remained below their pre-crisis levels. The latest data on imports by air indicate further weakening of demand. Only German imports seem to have resisted otherwise downward trends.

Inland transport by rail and road continued to recover at varying speeds. Rail freight in the EU is picking up and volumes are now 7% below pre-crisis levels, measured in seasonally adjusted tonne-kilometers. In the United States and Russia rail freight volumes are now 4% and 2% below Q2/08. Road freight in the EU continues to recover slowly with a significant gap from Q2/08 (Fig. 6-8).

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Source: International Transport Forum


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