World merchandise trade likely registered a historic second-quarter fall, according to data released by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Wednesday.
The WTO’s Goods Trade Barometer, a real-time trend gauge for trade, indicated a 14% quarterly drop in global merchandise trade volume.
Additional indicators for the quarterly measure point to partial upticks in world trade and output in the third quarter, but the strength of any recovery remains highly uncertain, said the WTO.
It added that an L-shaped, rather than V-shaped, trajectory for recovery cannot be ruled out.
“The WTO’s June statistics implied a 14% drop in global merchandise trade volume between the first and second quarters of this year.
This estimate, together with the new Goods Trade Barometer reading, suggests that world trade in 2020 is evolving in line with the less pessimistic of the two scenarios outlined in the WTO’s April forecast,” said the WTO.
“That projected that the volume of merchandise trade this year would contract by 13% compared to 2019.”
The current barometer reading of 84.5 is 15.5 points below the baseline value of 100 for the index and 18.6 points down from the same period last year.
The reading is the lowest on record in data going back to 2007 and on par with the fall of the 2008-09 financial crisis.
“It is broadly consistent with WTO statistics issued in June, which estimated an 18.5% decline in merchandise trade in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year,” said the WTO.
It added that the exact extent of the fall in trade could only be confirmed later this year when official trade volume data from April to June becomes available.
The WTO said all of the barometer’s component indices remain well below trend, with many registering historic lows, although some have begun to stabilize.
Indices for automotive products (71.8) and air freight (76.5) are by far the worst on record since 2007, while container shipping (86.9) also remains deeply depressed.
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