Shipping Shows International Trade Slowing

Even though international trade is slowing, U.S. rail freight shows signs of recovery. (Just don’t try to sell coal for a living.)

The Baltic Exchange Dry Index is running below its 200 day average.

That matters to us, because this gauge tells us something about foreign trading activity. Right now, the activity is dropping off quickly, in line with international decisions to spend less money. China and India have cut back, by choice. The U.S. cut back by accident. And Europe can’t trade so much, right now.  

On January 13, 2010 the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that the total 2009 carload traffic on U.S. railroads was at its lowest levels since at least 1988, when the AAR’s data series began.

That said, the number one culprit in the figures was carloadings of coal. With coal out of the report, rail carloads would have been 6.9% higher in December, year over year.

The best flicker of good news: Intermodal Traffic showed year over year improvement in December. Keep an eye on that one.

We can maybe draw the conclusion that U.S. rail freight is working its way out of a nightmare year. Aside from the coal industry, combined domestic growth may be increasing slightly. All this, even as the Baltic Exchange shows trade is slowing for the rest of the world.

Recruiter’s View – Things have changed. Again. Until just recently, all the focus for economic growth came from overseas. Our recovery was tied, more than anything, to the recovery in China.

Now, China has throttled back lending. India has raised reserve requirements. And the European Union has problems.

Shenanigans in Washington have delayed our recovery, but we may have some basis for optimism.

Strangely, even as the world slows down, we may discover a little economic growth here.

If politicians would care to let that blossom, the employment scene could grow right along with it.