The Baltic Dry Index of freight costs (for iron ore, grains and coal) follows changes in global demand for bulk shipping. As such, it is an important leading indicator of future economic activity, and chemicals demand.
The blog first noted Index movements in October 2007, when this was accurately forecasting the H1 2008 boom. In May 2008, the Index then began a 90% fall that preceded the H2 collapse. Now, as shown in the chart above from Bloomberg, it is again flashing a warning light.
The Index bottomed last October, as companies cut back on inventories ahead of year end. But it then moved up sharply, before the seasonal weakness in Q1 (when shipping conditions are poor). But in the last month, its rally since March seems to have collapsed. The Index is now back at the October lows.
The FT notes that "the fall in freight rates reflected a gloomier outlook for the global economy". An analyst with ICAP, the broker, added that in their view "the Chinese are tightening seriously. We're not very positive on the short-term global outlook".