Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The above shows global trade through September 2011 (with almost full data) and preliminarily through October 2011 (based on only 20 out of 71 countries that have reported so far). This is based on the monthly data from the WTO (and see here for more methodological detail).
This data is a bit tricky to interpret since there is clearly strong seasonality and yet it's such a short series, and with such a giant anomaly in the middle from the 2008 recession, that straightforward seasonal adjustment methods are unlikely to give good results.
Accordingly, I have marked with a green oval the August-October period in each past year to assist visual comparisons of different years. You can see that normally at this time of year there's a big surge of pre-Christmas trade, with the exception of 2008 when the financial crisis overwhelmed it.
You can also see that this surge is completely absent this year (red oval) - there is a small downturn in September/October instead. The caveat would be the preliminary/incomplete nature of the October data. However, I take the fact that imports and exports show a very similar pattern as evidence that the sample is large enough to capture the main trend at least roughly (it's almost the same set of countries reporting in both cases but since countries typically import quite different things than they export, the two measurements sample world trade in quite different ways).
I take this as more evidence consistent with the view that the world is in the early stages of a recession triggered by the European debt crisis.