Global Trade Turns Up

Posted by: Joe Weber on June 01

cargoship.jpg More foreign manufacturers shipped goods to American customers for the second month in a row in April, suggesting that a long, depressing slide in such business may be ending. Panjiva, an online tracking service that monitors global trade, reports that a four-month free fall in the number of manufacturers shipping to the U.S. ended in March with a 2% rise, followed by a brisk 8% uptick in April.

“In any other year, the March to April improvement would appear modest, but 2009 is unique,” said Panjiva chief executive officer Josh Green. “Frankly, we expected to see far worse numbers – and yet these numbers suggest we may have already hit bottom.”

Panjiva, a three-year-old statistics-crunching outfit based in New York and Boston, tracks the shipments of manufacturers from around the globe for customers such as Home Depot. Its April tally found that 129,260 such producers had shipped goods to the U.S., up from 119,797 in March and the recent low point of 117,833 in February. Despite occasional modest upturns, the trend line in such shipper totals has been sliding since at least July 2007, when 161,905 shippers moved goods to the U.S., the firm reports.

The number of shipments from China, whose manufacturers form a substantial share of those Panjiva tracks, has been rising sharply. The data firm reported a 15% rise in the number of Chinese manufacturers shipping to American customers, which Panjiva officials say suggest that the American market for Chinese exports may be stabilizing.

But the firm cautions that the data don’t prove that global trade is out of the woods just yet. The firm maintains a “watch list” of producers that have suffered a year-over-year drop of 50% or more in volume shipped to U.S. customers and are at risk of going out of business. That number has grown steadily over the last year or more. Where 29% of major overseas manufacturers made the list in February, some 31% did so in April.

“Unfortunately, there is still substantial risk facing those engaged in global trade, and the global trading system remains vulnerable to further shocks,” cautions CEO Green.

Panjiva gathers its data from business associations, auditing firms and such government agencies as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and customs and commerce authorities in China. It culls through several hundred data sources to keep an eye on the volumes that offshore producers ship to American buyers.

Reader Comments

Strategery

June 2, 2009 09:04 PM

If China wants the USA to keep buying their stuff, then they had better buy some US products to balance out the trade. Otherwise, this increase in 'trade' will be short lived.

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BusinessWeek’s Joe Weber, Patricia O'Connell, Michelle Conlin, Frederik Balfour, Peter Coy, Greg Spielberg and Roger Crockett examine The Case for Optimism by looking past the financial turmoil and economic unrest gripping the globe to focus on the promising future that lies on the other side of this storm. We’ll chronicle the forward thinkers investing in R&D, launching promising new products, entering new markets, or implementing management and leadership.

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