A return to decline: Stifel Logistics Confidence Index falls month on month

Despite a dip in results during March, the April edition of the Stifel Logistics Confidence Index returned to the trend of month on month improvements seen in January and February.

Nonetheless, structural issues within both the air and sea freight industries remain, with global economic performance offering few consolations.

Following on from its research publicizing a net negative effect to expanding the size of container ships to 24,000 TEU, Drewry cited carrier figures showing a reduction of newbuilds as evidence that shipping lines recognize this situation, as they are “running out of profitable trades to deploy the mega-ships”.

Nonetheless, the industry analysts believe that failing carriers will not go under in the event of financial peril, referencing the means by which leading companies in the industry found ways to survive in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis.

The picture is not much better in air freight, with IATA’s release of February volume figures showing the second month of 2016 down against the previous year by 5.6%. According to the organization, this represents the greatest year on year decline in three years, though this was largely derived from exceptionally strong volume figures in February 2015, a product of the West Coast Port strikes in the US at the time.

Due to the growth in passenger demand, freight capacity rose by 7.5% during the period, with load factors consequently down by 5.7%. Two bright sport for the industry were the Latin American and Middle Eastern regions, which saw volume improvements against the overall trend; these markets saw volumes increase by 2.7% and 3.7% year on year, respectively.

total freight apr16


Air freight

The air freight logistics confidence Index gained 1.0 points in April 2016, totaling 49.6. This result is 7.4 points below that for April 2015, and 5.6 points lower than in April 2014.

The present situation results rose by 0.6 points to 46.0. This was chiefly derived from a 4.0 gain in the Asia to Europe lane, which totaled 45.4 as a result. This was the only lane to register an improvement however, with US to Europe declining 1.8 points to 47.2, and Europe to Asia down 0.2 to 38.9. Europe to US was flat against the March results.

In the expected outlook, the results by lane were unanimously positive, with gains across the board. Europe to US was the biggest gainer, with 3.6 points taking it to 55.8. This was followed by US to Europe, which gained 1.6 points to 54.9, Asia to Europe, which rose 0.8 points to 52.6, and Europe to Asia, which was up 0.5 points to 50.2.

air freight apr16



Sea Freight

The logistics confidence Index for sea freight remained unchanged at 45.3, kept in balance by a weak improvement in the current situation, and a weak decline in the expected situation.

For the present situation, the Index rose by 0.1 points to 41.6, with half of the lanes noting improvements. These were US to Europe, which was up by 4.6 points to 42.5, and Europe to US, the only positive lane, which gained 1.9 points to 51.2. These overcame declines of 3.9 points in Europe to Asia, which stood at 34.3, and of 1.4 points in Asia to Europe, which amounted to 39.6.

Running against this, the expected situation Index for sea freight fell by 0.1 points to 49.0, with a solitary gain of 3.8 points in the US to Europe lane not enough to offset declines of 2.7 in Asia to Europe, 0.6 in Europe to US, and 0.2 in Europe to Asia. Respectively, the lanes totaled 50.0, 47.8, 55.4, and 43.9. 

sea freight apr 16


One-Off Question

Each month, respondents to the Stifel Logistics Confidence Index survey are asked a unique, one-off question. The April edition featured the declining volumes of the Port of Hong Kong, asking respondents whether or not they believed the port to be in a terminal decline as a regional hub facility.

Whilst a substantial number of respondents, 32%, indeed believed this to be the case, 45% stated they believed a turnaround to be possible, with the caveat that significant reforms would need to be passed for this to become so. The remaining 23% of participants stated that the trend would cease, and that the port would retain its status regardless.

Take part in this month’s survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/StifelMay16

Source: Transport Intelligence, 19th April 2016

Author: Alex Le Roy