WorldACD: Do modest November volumes indicate a 2019 slowdown?

One of the more reliable annual air cargo results in recent years has been a healthy rise in volumes for November, indicating the results of the busy shipping events surrounding “11.11” in China and “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” in the United States. But according to analysis released today by WorldACD, November has not performed quite as expected, sending a shiver through the logistics industry on the cusp of 2019.

The New Year’s Eve release of November data from WorldACD was not cataclysmic, but it did indicate that air cargo volumes for the month were 1.4 percent lower than the previous November’s numbers, and also 2 percent less than October 2018’s volumes.

The good news, however, was that cargo yields (revenues per kilogram) in November continued their steady rise, as they have done all year so far in 2018. The less-good news is that the yield-growth percentage each month has been shrinking slowly. “Nevertheless, the yield-jump from October to November was larger than the [month-over-month] increases earlier in the year,” WorldACD said.

Regionally, cargo originating from Africa and the Asia-Pacific region grew faster in November than October (4.9 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively) did better in November than in October. The destinations Africa (2.8 percent) and Europe (0.3 percent) also increased m-o-m in November, while Asia Pacific-to-Europe increased substantially by of 7.2 percent m-o-m.

The regions that drew more puzzlement from WorldACD were China and Hong King. China figures were better than the worldwide average (-1 percent, year-over-year, and 4.1 percent, m-o-m, in November), but Hong Kong was mixed and harder to read, at -4.2 percent, y-o-y, and 8.8 percent, m-o-m. And yields measured in U.S. dollars ex-Hong Kong rose sharply at 13 percent, y-o-y, in November.

In October, WorldACD “interpreted the very positive y-o-y October figures for the market China-USA as a sign of US businesses ‘stocking up’ before tariffs would begin to bite.” Could that still be the case in November? The signals remain mixed, WorldACD said.

The China-U.S. market increased 1 percent, m-o-m, in November, but fell by almost 5 percent, y-o-y. “Combine this with a considerable drop in the opposite direction, U.S. to China, and we find that the overall market between these two countries fell by almost 6 percent, y-o-y, and by 1 percent, m-o-m,” WorldACD said. “November was the first month since the trade war started that the y-o-y volume change for both directions was negative. It goes for both China and the U.S. that their performance to the rest of the world is much better than their performance to the territory of their trade war adversary.”

The mixed indicators seen in this data for the end of 2018 “may well carry over into the new year, which seems to announce itself with much more uncertainty than a year ago, when the air cargo world looked quite stable,” WorldACD concluded.

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