Nowcast shows international trade and global economy cooling down

10 December 2019

The UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2019 provides a wide range of statistics and indicators relevant to the analysis of international trade, investment, maritime transport and development.

After a continued surge last year, global trade and economic output have stagnated this year, according to UNCTAD's nowcast published today in the 2019 Handbook of Statistics.

Merchandise trade is predicted to drop by 2.4% to US$19 trillion, after significant growth rates in 2018 (9.7%) and 2017 (10.7%). Trade in services is predicted to only increase by 2.7% to $6 trillion, a considerable deceleration from 7.7% in 2018 and 7.9% in 2017.

Real global economic output (gross domestic product) is now expected to grow by 2.3% this year, 0.7 percentage points less than last year.

"We see consistency across a range of indicators – the global economy is slowing," said Steve MacFeely, UNCTAD’s chief statistician.

Changes in services exports by category, 2013-2018
Handbook of Statistics

Last year, world merchandise trade increased by 2.3% in volume terms. The 9.7% increase in values could to a large extent be attributed to changes in prices. For example, fuel prices recorded substantial growth, year-on-year, during all the months of 2018, a trend that was reversed at the beginning of 2019, as UNCTAD's free market commodity price index shows.

Maritime transport lost momentum in 2018. World seaborne trade volumes rose by only 2.7%, compared with 4.7% in 2017, and port container traffic grew by 4.7%, two percentage points less than the year before.

UNCTAD's 2019 Handbook of Statistics depicts these and other major trends in statistics relevant to international trade and development, summarizing the broad spectrum of statistics maintained in the online database UNCTADstat.

"The handbook is designed to supply a broad range of users, from all regions of the world and working in different domains, be they policymakers, businesses, researchers, journalists or the person on the street who is interested in global economic and social affairs, with high-quality, impartial and easily readable information on latest trends and patterns," Mr. MacFeely said.

The handbook boasts numerous maps, figures, infographics and tables, accompanied by descriptive text, all of which reveal interesting, sometimes curious, recent developments, such as foreign direct investment from the US turning into negative in 2018.

It also shows the rising merchandise trade deficit of the developed economies as a group since 2016 and a growing spread of the world supply of manufactured goods by exporting economies over the last two years.

The 2019 edition also extends to new domains, such as statistics on port calls and the time ships spent on ports.