Global Trade Just Snapped: Container Freight Rates Plummet 70% In 3 Weeks

Tyler Durden's picture

"This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that," warns one of the world's largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines - having collapsed to all-time record lows this week - it is the spefics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before... 2008! "It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term."

Baltic Dry at record lows...

 

And Shanghai Containerized Freight collapsing...

 

As Reuters reports,

Shipping freight rates for transporting containers from ports in Asia to Northern Europe plunged by 27.9 percent to $295 per 20-foot container (TEU) in the week ending on Friday, one source with access to data from the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index told Reuters.

 

The drop came after spot freight rates on the world’s busiest route dropped 39.3 percent last week, and the current rates are widely seen as loss-making levels for container shipping companies.

 

The spot freight rates for transporting containers, carrying anything from flat-screen TVs to sportswear from Asia to Northern Europe, has fallen 70 percent in three weeks.

 

In the week to Friday, container freight rates fell 22.5 percent from Asia to ports in the Mediterranean, dropped 8.6 percent to ports on the U.S. West Coast and were down 8.0 percent to ports on the U.S. East Coast.

But even more concerning is this collapse is occurring just as the containerized freight industry enters its golden seasonal period...

 

Now where have we seen this massive unprecedented decoupling before?

 

Of course the clarion calls of the status quo, everything is awesome, optimists is that this has nothing to with demand but is merely due to over-supply of ships...

Supply has indeed surged...

Source: @M_McDonough

But only thanks to totally manipulated and decoupled-from-reality signals from 'markets' that caused firms to massively mal-invest in building ships for the renaissance of global trade... which never happened...

 

In fact, as the chart above shows, growth in global trade has been slowing down for some time, as Acting-Man's Pater Tenebrarum notes,

But somewhere between collapsing oil prices, dollar strength, and consumer lethargy the economy’s narrative has drifted off plot.  The theme has transitioned from one of renewed growth and recovery to one of recurring sickness and stagnation.  Mass malinvestments in U.S. shale oil, Brazilian mines, and Chinese factories and real estate must be reckoned with.

 

Price adjustments, bankruptcies, and debt restructuring must be painfully worked through like a strawberry picker hunkered over a seemingly endless furrow row of over ripening fruits.  Sore backs, burnt necks, and tender fingers are what the over-all economy has in front of it.  The U.S. economy is not immune to the global disorder after all.

More evidence is revealed each week that the unexpected is happening.  Instead of economic strength and robust growth, economic fundamentals are breaking down.  Manufacturing is slowing.  Consumer spending is soft.  For additional edification, just look at copper, iron ore, or aluminum...

Charts: Bloomberg