Tariff war takes its toll in November as air cargo volumes decline

Air cargo volumes for November bucked normal seasonal trends and declined compared with October levels.
The latest figures from analyst WorldACD show that there was a 1.4% year-on-year (YoY) decline in cargo volumes in November, but more surprisingly there was a slip of 2% compared with October.
Usually air cargo demand increases in November as the industry enters its peak season.
“Only the origins Africa (+4.9%) and Asia Pacific (+0.5%) did better in November than in October,” the analyst said in its monthly market round-up.
“The destinations Africa (+2.8%) and Europe (+0.3%) also registered a month on month (MoM) increase.
“Of the largest traffic flows, Asia Pacific to Europe showed a sizeable increase of 7.2% MoM. The Middle East & South Asia, together with North America, had the dubious honour of showing a MoM decrease to each of the other five regions.”
“As if this were not enough deviation from the worldwide trends in November, take a look at the traffic between China & Hong Kong and the US, presently attracting a lot of interest.
“Last month we interpreted the very positive YoY October figures for the market China-USA as a sign of US businesses ‘stocking up’ before tariffs would begin to bite. Could that still be the case?
“Although November showed a small increase in this market over October (+1%), the YoY figures showed a drop of almost 5%. Combine this with a considerable drop in the opposite direction US to China (-6% MoM and -8% YoY).
“November was the first month since the trade war started that the YoY volume change for both directions was negative.
“It goes for both China and the USA that their performance to the rest of the world is much better than their performance to the territory of their trade war adversary.”
The analyst said that of the world’s air cargo engines, China registered a 4.1% MoM increase and Hong Kong noted an 8.8% improvement.
Despite the weakening in air cargo volumes, yields continued to rise – in US dollar terms there was a 3.5% improvement compared with a year ago and a 4% improvement on October’s levels.
However, the analyst said that the improvements in yields had continued to narrow every month since July.
Looking to the year ahead, the WorldACD said: “The mixed picture we have seen in 2018 may well carry over into the new year, which seems to announce itself with much more uncertainty than a year ago, when the air cargo world looked quite stable.”

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