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波罗的海的衰退  

2008-01-21 15:22:54|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Baltic woes波罗的海的衰退

Jan 20th 2008
From Economist.com

The fall of a shipping index portends预知 trouble


FACED with the difficult task of assessing the planet’s financial health, economists naturally look for some short cuts. For example, because Belgium is at Europe’s trading crossroads, its business confidence has been seen as a good proxy for how the continent is faring.

Another obscure-sounding晦涩的 indicator is the Baltic Dry index波罗的海干燥指数. This is neither a specialist beer nor a measure of Russo-Finnish trade but a composite of global shipping costs for bulk commodities such as grains谷物 and coal. As such, it is a rough and ready measure of the state of global trade.

波罗的海的衰退 - bldr - Georges blog

So it seems rather worrying that the index has fallen by a third since its peak in November. Admittedly显然的, that may tell us more about global shipping capacity than about trading volumes. The last five years has already seen two big swings in the index. In the first phase, between the end of 2002 and the start of 2005, the index jumped from below 2,000 to 6,000, as both trade and commodity prices surged. But shipowners eventually responded to this increase and shipping rates fell sharply. This told us nothing about trading activity.

The Baltic Dry picked up again in 2006, helped by the surge急速上升 in food prices; it hit its peak of 11,000 in November. While shipping availability may be responsible for its subsequent drop, Capital Economics reckons评估 “it seems unlikely that a large amount of shipping capacity has suddenly (and unexpectedly) come into the market.”

It is also worth noting that the Baltic Dry is not the only straw稻草,麦秆 in the wind. Oil and food prices may have surged over the past year, carrying The Economist’s commodities商品 index up 26% in the 12 months to January 15th.

But base metals—historically the raw materials most sensitive to economic activity—have not taken part in the party; they rose just 1.3% over the same period. And for those who think the commodities markets are simply driven by speculation, one can also turn to the sudden decline in Singapore’s fourth quarter GDP or in the 4.5% annual decline in the city-state’s exports recorded in December (in this context, Singapore is the Belgium of Asia).

The markets are now clearly a lot more worried about global growth than they were in the last stages of 2007, as the Dow Jones Industrial Index’s 300-plus point fall on January 17th clearly showed. Indicators like the Philadelphia Federal Reserve index of manufacturing activity are not helping; according to Alan Ruskin of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the indicator’s fall to minus-20 took it to levels that have always preceded recessions in the last 30 years. Even the widespread expectation of further Federal Reserve interest-rate reductions (or chairman Ben Bernanke’s call for accompanying tax cuts) are failing to calm investors’ nerves.

Perhaps the only silver lining in this cloud is the prospect that, if global growth is truly weakening, that will allow both oil and food prices to drop sharply, easing the pressure on headline inflation and on consumers’ pocket books. That might provide a welcome boost to sentiment感情,情绪.

But in the short term, the outlook seems bleak萧瑟的. Profit forecasts are being revised down, credit is still being restricted (as confirmed by the latest European Central Bank survey), the financial system is still in trouble (witness the latest problems of bond insurers like MBIA and Ambac), consumer spending is weak and the housing markets in both America and Britain are still deteriorating恶化. The collapse of the Baltic Dry is just one more piece of evidence for the prosecution起诉,执行.

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