RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index: World trade back in the doldrums?

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In February, the Container Throughput Index of RWI/ISL has improved from (revised) 117.9 to 118.7. However, the Chinese New Year’s Holidays have had their usual distorting impact on the February-flash estimate. Hence analysing the 2-month-average paints a more realistic picture. This 2-month-average of stood at 118.3 and was thus equivalent to the revised December-value, which can be considered as an indicator for a pause or even an interruption of the increase in world trade.

The January-Index was revised downwards extraordinarily strongly. Besides the usual factors such as later incoming data and the volatility of seasonal factors towards the most recent time periods, this was due to a mistake in the extension of the model towards the year 2016. A modification of the port sample had only minor impacts. The port of Guayaquil (Ecuador) is no longer considered because of missing data whereas the Tanger Med port (Morocco) was added. The February flash estimate is based on data of 33 ports representing 69% of the throughput covered by the index.

The index is based on data of 81 world container ports covering approximately 60% of worldwide container handling. The ports are continuously monitored by the ISL as part of their market analysis. Because large parts of international merchandise trade are transported by ship, the development of port handling is a good indicator for world trade. As many ports release information about their activities only two weeks after the end of the respective month, the RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index is a reliable early indicator for the development of international merchandise trade and hence for the activity of the global economy.

The RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index for March 2016 will be published on April 21st.

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