The Baltic Dry Index which represents the worldwide demand for raw materials has come to a virtual standstill having fallen 93%. Unlike the stockmarkets, the BDI is not easily manipulated and because of that is a reliable indicator of the potential for future economic trends.
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This is potentially a very scary scenario as regards wordwide food shipments. The only article I have seen on the news is that the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach has a huge stockpile of undelivered cars. Has anyone else heard any mention of this issue?
Cargo vessel construction is highly cyclical. So the Baltic Dry
Index responds in leveraged fashion to changes in world trade ... plus
additional supply coming on at the worst possible time (vessels ordered
during the late Bubble II). Vessel construction is like a housing
market where the houses are as big as skyscrapers, with multi-year lead
The macro question is whether the 60-year secular
trend toward freer trade has reversed. Self-sufficiency can be
tactically valuable, within limits. But economies which wall out
more-efficient foreign suppliers end up looking like Cuba and North
Korea -- backward, destitute, and poverty-stricken.
I read about this a few days ago. It does seem alarming. Here are a few links that provide more information.
Be a bit cautious of the BDI. It's had quite a bit of press over the past few months but it is a very volatile index and when looked at reveals itself best over a longer time. It lost around half of its value early last year then recovered to its new peak before plummeting to present low levels in Oct, Nov. Not to say that it isn't significant just that its also volatile. It has been suggested that local stocks of at least three months and price oportunities (importers waiting for prices to fall) may partly explain the recent volatility. Only more time will tell.
Thanks for the valuable comments above. That sheds more light on the reasons why the ports could be so empty.
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