The Baltic Dry Index, which measures the price of shipping dry goods globally, has dropped to its lowest known point in the past few days at 402. Other indicators too are pointing to a rapid downturn in export shipping volumes.
On its own, the BDI low index may reflect nothing more than an oversupply of shipping , but taken with other data measures, indications are that international trade is slowing at a rapid rate globally.
If this is the case, then we are likely to see a further deterioration in commodity prices, particularly oil prices, as demand slumps, an increase in unemployment in the industrial sectors globally and an increasing shrinkage in consumer spending.
And naturally, that decrease i trade globally is simply because people are buying less! Here’s a neat little Bloomberg graph which shows the trend for retail sales in the United States.. People simply seem to be buying less ‘stuff’
Because the human world’s current survival culture is predicated on continuous growth in production of things, such a reversal will have significant implications for poverty, hopelessness and hunger in the short to medium term. It will require no less than a massive restructuring of what it means to be human on this planet, for us all to get to a state of sustainable equilibrium, and to finally recognise our equality with the other species we co-habit the world with.
On the bright side, the elimination of ‘growth’ or even a reversal in growth, will be a significant bonus to the world’s environment. The diminishing need to use more coal and gas, to mine more minerals, to build more cities, dwellings and transport networks and consume more generally, will mean less of what is left of our natural environment will become despoiled.
As the ‘Geography of Transport Systems ‘ notes succinctly, there are many factors which influence the BDI price; lowering oil prices for ships ( bunker oil), too many ships in the market and lastly and likely most significantly, lowering demand for bulk goods. OIl process are approximately 40% of the price and there certainly has been a glut in bulk tankers, but we also know bulk commodity prices ( iron ore, copper etc etc) have dropped precipitously due to much reduced demand from primarily China. But a drop of this magnitude foretells something much bigger in the wind…
And here’s the BDI at 29th January …
And even Bloomberg might be coming to a similar consensus as of 29th January…