By Meera Bhatia and Alaric Nightingale – Jun 2, 2010
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Container shipping offers a smoother gauge of the global economic recovery than oil tankers or commodity carriers, reflecting rebounding demand for everything from cookers to televisions.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows how rates for container ships, in green, are less volatile than those for tankers, in blue, or dry bulk carriers in red. The container index has risen every month since December. Tanker rates doubled in January and fell 34 percent the next month while the Baltic Dry Index dropped for three months through February and then gained for three months.

“We see some very strong results now on the container shipping side and in a way this is a stronger indicator of the economy than tankers and dry bulk,” said Harald Serck-Hanssen, global head of shipping, offshore and logistics at DnB NOR ASA. “They have seen a remarkable recovery so far this year.”

The global economy will expand 4.2 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said in April, raising its January forecast of 3.9 percent. The value of world merchandise trade rose 25 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the World Trade Organization said yesterday. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade, according to the Round Table of International Shipping Associations.

The container index reflects rates for six types of ships on one- to two-year charters and is compiled by the Hamburg Shipbrokers’ Association. The tanker rates are published by the Baltic Exchange in London and reflect the spot market cost of supertankers on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan route. The Baltic Dry Index is from the same bourse and is composed of spot rates for 20 routes.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alaric Nightingale in London at Anightingal1@bloomberg.net; Meera Bhatia at mbhatia2@bloomberg.net

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