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Global trade activity dipped from January to February, according to Panjiva data

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
April 02, 2014

On the heels of a strong beginning to the year for global trade activity in January, February did not follow suit, according to data released this week by Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers.

Panjiva reported that U.S.-bound waterborne shipments in February—at 983,482—dropped 16 percent from January and 6 percent compared to February 2013. The steep January to February decline easily eclipsed the 2 percent fall off for the same period in 2013 and was just shy of 2012’s 20 percent decrease and ahead of 2011’s 15 percent drop.

The number of global manufacturers shipping to the U.S in January—at 154,468—was down 5 percent annually and also down 7 percent from January to February. The January to February change was up 1 percent in 2013, down 12 percent in 2012, and down 8 percent in 2011.

Panjiva described the respective declines in shipments and manufacturers as a “stark downturn,” adding that is cannot say with certainty what is driving it, whether it is political instability or a fluke.

In an interview, Panjiva CEO Josh Green said that the February fall off could be directly related to the Chinese New Year, which sees manufacturing and trade output ostensibly coming to a halt for up to two weeks each year.

“February typically sees precipitous drops, and this year was no exception,” explained Green.

While February was off, Green said that on a year-to-date basis through February, total shipments are up 1.5 percent annually. 

One of the interesting shifts Panjiva saw, said Green was that March 2013 turned out to be the low point for 2013 global trade activity, which was a shift from previous years which had consistently seen February as the typical low point of the year. But even with this change it Green said it is too early to see if a new pattern will emerge in regards to this development.

“It was surprising last year but could be tied to when Chinese New Year fell,” he said. “But if the pattern holds true again this year, it is worth digging in to see if there is a reason why March would be the new low point.”

Regarding the overall state of global trade, Green noted he is bullish on trade as the year progresses, noting that there was a relatively satisfying end to 2013, which gave corporate buyers and businesses confidence in placing their orders for 2014.

But he added there is also reason to be concerned because of things like political instability, given the situation in the Ukraine.

“If we were to see an increase in tensions and punitive trade measures, you could see that starting to drag on global trade, but as of now it seems like things are OK,” he said. “By and large, we are seeing corporate buyers betting on healthy consumer spending levels.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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