DHL global trade barometer forecasts slowdown

World trade is set to mildly decline in the coming months, according to the DHL Global Trade Barometer (GTB). 

The GTB index fell by -1 points to 47, indicating a further loss of momentum in the next three months. Since the June GTB update which registered -8, the downward trend has slowed perceptibly.

Declining air trade has been the sole trigger for this, losing -4 points to 45. Ocean trade however remained unchanged at 48.

“Worldwide, trade conflicts continue to smoulder. Geopolitical tensions are causing uncertainty. Against this backdrop, global trade continues to develop surprisingly well. Although the DHL Global Trade Barometer has further decreased – with an index value of 47 points –world trade is still closer to staying at its high level,” Tim Scharwath, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding, Freight, said. “This strengthens our conviction that globalisation will go on and that logistics will remain its key enabler also in the future.”

DHL index indicates consistent overall picture indicates stagnating world trade

Among the seven countries measured on the GTB, there is little deviation of the index. All settled close to 50 points – the threshold for growth. Five of the seven are slightly negative, with indicators below 50.

Eswar S. Prasad, Professor of Trade Policy and Economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, USA, commented on the DHL index: “China-U.S. trade tensions have ratcheted up to higher levels and are already affecting global supply chains as businesses adjust to the new reality that both sides are digging in for a long trade war. Rising trade tensions in other parts of the world, including between Japan and Korea, and the looming prospect of a messy Brexit is likely to have an increasingly disruptive effect on world trade volumes. The level of uncertainty about macroeconomic growth prospects has driven down business investment around the world, with adverse effects on cross-border trade of machinery and equipment. Household consumption has remained strong in most major economies but the stagnation of trade in consumer durables reflected in the GTB component indexes portend weakening in this key driver of GDP growth. Overall, this GTB update confirms the slowdown in global growth and heightens concerns about growth stagnation in the coming months.”


DHL’s index shows only Japan and the UK show positive growth for the next three months at 53 points. Both have varied from quarter to quarter, with Japan seeing negative growth in the previous quarter but the UK slowing from 56 in June. Brexit uncertainties have slowed UK growth on both air and ocean measures. The UK is also seeing consumer fashion goods, industrial raw materials and land vehicles & parts all slowed. 

Japan however saw growth in rejuvenated ocean trade which grew by +6 to 55 thanks to a robust growth for industrial raw materials and corresponding exports.

Impact of US-Chinese tensions reflected in their own results


According to DHL, “The trade conflict between China and the US keeps simmering, resulting in an overall subdued trade mood, with US and China accounting for the most negative trade outlooks in September.” The GTB shows that US trade is expected to fall even more to 45 points despite a slight climb of +1 since June.

China is set to decline by -4 to 45 points as well. The weak performance of Chinese air trade has led this fall, hitting -8 to 43 in the last quarter. Only S Korea matches this low point of 45 points.

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