May 2017: The fairy tale continues - general cargo on the rise
June 30, 2017
One month ago we wrote that "the size of the March-April drop in 2017 may act as a caveat against the view that good times are here to stay". Judging by the May-results, we may well be branded for that statement as some kind of a "doomsayer-light": May showed a formidable year-over-year (YoY) increase in chargeable weight of 12.8% (13.8% in DTK's), coupled with a YoY yield rise of 5% in USD (7% in EUR). For the first five months of the year, worldwide chargeable weight increased with 10% YoY and revenues with 11% in USD (with 15% in EUR). Macro-economic indicators seem to hint that the present situation looks fairly robust (we'll see when we will have to eat our words once more...).
What causes the recent trade growth, particularly in goods shipped by air?
Growth in e-commerce may be one factor explaining the surge in air cargo we witness since the second half of 2016: after all, speed plays an important role in this sector of the economy. Yet, we do not see this trend reflected in large increases in express air cargo. We note the largest growth in regular shipments weighing more than 1,000 kilograms, a clear sign (i) that most e-commerce finds the regular speed of air cargo good enough, and (ii) that e-commerce is definitely not a matter of individual small parcels flying across the globe!
Increasing consumer demand in general (and for electronics in particular) may be another contributing factor, fueled by an increase in purchasing power, most clearly in a number of Asian markets. Our growth figures for a number of these markets certainly point in that direction. But Europe and North America (the latter mainly in incoming traffic) show their mettle as well. Although the economic recovery in Eastern Europe and Latin America is slower than elsewhere, air cargo from these regions is now clearly picking up. The laggards of early 2017 are therefore Africa and the Middle East.
The Asia Pacific region has now recorded double digit YoY volume increases for four months in a row, resulting in a year-to-date growth of 14%. China and Hong Kong, accounting for about half of the region's air cargo, grew even faster, but their growth percentages were topped by Vietnam (+31%) and the Philippines (+26%). Volumes from Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, contracted. Whilst China and Hong Kong send only a quarter of their air cargo to destinations in the region, for Japan and South East Asia it is almost half of their total exports by air that stay within Asia Pacific.
The transport of specific product groups within the Asia Pacific region, deviates from the general trend. Live animals, perishable goods and pharmaceuticals all showed a negative growth in the year so far, pharmaceuticals losing 31.7% YoY. Only the small segment of express cargo (+22.6%) outstripped the overall intraregional growth of 12.7%. In other words: general cargo is on the rise. And that is not just the case in Asia Pacific, it is the worldwide trend in the year so far. With the exception of pharmaceuticals, specific cargo categories experience slower growth than general cargo.