Despite a slight dip compared to last month, confidence among freight forwarders remains high for the current peak season, “continuing the pattern of longer-term, gradual improvement,” according to the October results of the Stifel Logistics Confidence Index (LCI).
This month, the overall confidence index – which includes sea and air freight – was a 58.9 points, a 0.4-point decline from the record-high figure in September, but was 3.8 points higher than the same period from last year. October was the 21st consecutive month in which overall LCI results were above the benchmark of 50 points, which indicates expectations that freight volumes will rise; indexes below 50 indicate lower predicted volumes.
“Our expectations were for good volume growth through the end of 2014, and that seems to be holding true, especially in air freight, where peak season shipping remains strong,” the report said.
According to Stifel, Asia-to-Europe traffic in October continued to be the biggest contributor to the robust air freight volumes, which rose another 0.8 points from September to reach 56.5 points – another record high since the index began in March 2012. Asia-to-Europe exports rose 0.3 points to 59.9, U.S.-to-Europe shot up 3.2 points to 56.3, and Europe-to-U.S. increased 0.7 points to 46.1. The lone sour note was Europe-to-Asia traffic, which went down 0.3 index points to 51.3.
For the next six months, Stifel’s Expected Situation Index for total air freight was bumped up 1.2 points to 59.6 for October. The outlook for all other major freight lanes also improved, with the exception of Asia-to-Europe, which was reduced by 0.4 points to 63.8.
Stifel added that its outlook for freight-forwarding volumes in Q4 2014 “remains one for modest year-over-year growth with still generally-improving global trade conditions.” Still, volumes are expected to fall from Q3’s lofty heights, especially regarding global sea freight.
“Longer term, overcapacity continues to be an issue in both modes, and gross-profit-per-unit yields remain under pressure for most public forwarders. That pressure should continue into 2015, in our view, as shippers continue to optimize their service and modal mix,” the report said.
As a result, Stifel said the valuation of both air and sea freight forwarding “remains full, and we maintain our Hold ratings on those most exposed to the European markets,” including Deutsche Post DHL, Kuehne+Nagel and Panalpina.