Monday, May 23, 2011
It's been a while since we looked at the WTO's statistics for global trade. The latest data are above through March 2011.
A couple of cautions: the WTO converts all trade data to US dollars at prevailing market exchange rates. The data are not seasonally adjusted, or corrected for inflation. I then convert to an index based on Jan 2006 being 100, and doing some correction for missing data. In theory, imports and exports should be equal on a global basis, so the discrepancy above is due to measurement error. Notwithstanding the caveats, this is a pretty interesting and useful series, and was helpful in seeing the slowdown in the global economy last summer.
This time, what seems interesting is that the spring surge in trade is larger than usual (see red oval versus green ovals for this period in prior years). Trade has now pretty much recovered to the peak level of mid 2008. The great recession caused a huge fall of over 40% in the second half of 2008, but, two years later, the global economy has made up the lost ground (the change in the price level since then is only a couple of percent, so it wouldn't make much difference to the picture if we corrected for inflation).
In the US economy, April has bought some signs of weakening. It will be interesting to see if global trade statistics reflect this in coming months.