Market Update

Freight Market Update: May 27, 2020

Ocean and air freight rates and trends; customs and trade industry news plus COVID-19 impacts for the week of May 27, 2020.

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Ocean Freight Market Update

Air Freight Market Update

Freight Market News

State Support for Shipping Lines Varies Across the world, shipping lines are requesting government aid to stay afloat with varying results, according to the WSJ. In Asia, many nations see ocean freight as vital to the economy. Cash infusions aren’t new there. By contrast, the European Commission prohibits bailouts, but a French pandemic-support package allows for aid to French companies, while a Greek bailout rescues ferries. German shipowners are still seeking relief.

Logistics Cramps Agricultural Comeback After a year-plus of trade-war challenges, US agriculture has seen a demand increase, arising from northeast Asia, despite lower demand from China. Now, the JOC reports, the issue is logistical. Reduced ocean carrier capacity, shifting ports of call, equipment shortages, particularly in the Midwest, and increased demurrage and detention fees are choking agricultural shippers.

Meanwhile, this week, Flexport Chief Economist Dr. Phil Levy noted the following economic highlights:

  • Manufacturing data bounces off lows. The New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index rose from -78.2 in April to -48.5 in May. The earlier reading had been a record low, and the new reading is still the second-lowest ever, with any number below zero showing deteriorating conditions, but the May number beat expectations.
    • The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index also came off record lows. 58% of firms reported decreases in activity while 15% reported increases.
    • IHS reported its May US flash manufacturing index at 39.8, up from 36.1 in April. The U.S. composite index (including services) rose from 27.0 to 36.4. For these indices, numbers below 50 indicate contraction.
  • March shows weak trade indices. The World Trade Organization’s Goods Trade Barometer dipped from 95.5 in February to 87.6 in March (100=trend). The weakest component was autos at 79.7; container shipping was 88.5.
  • US CBO upgrades its 2021 forecast as the Congressional Budget Office, which plays a key role in assessing the costs of legislation, raised its estimate for 2021 GDP growth to 4.2%, from the 2.8% it had estimated a month before.
    • It still predicted a decline of 5.6% for 2020, with unemployment expected to average 11.5% this year and 9.3% next.
  • Weekly initial jobless claims were 2.4m.

Customs and Trade Updates

USTR Grants Exclusions to List 3 of Section 301 Tariffs The Office of the USTR released another batch of exclusions that pertain to the third tranche of Section 301 tariffs on goods from China. There are 17 full 10-digit HTS numbers and 61 HTS numbers with specifically prepared product descriptions. The exclusions apply retroactively to the September 24, 2018 implementation date and will remain in effect until August 7, 2020.

CBP Extends Border Travel Restrictions CBP posted notices that the travel restrictions to Canada and Mexico will be extended through June 22nd. They were previously set to expire on May 20th, but were extended before the deadline. These restrictions do not apply to cargo that is moving across the borders.

Vessel Manifest Confidentiality CBP has modified its process for vessel manifest confidentiality. It released a final rule detailing the new Vessel Manifest Confidentiality Online Application online portal that speeds the rate at which CBP reviews confidentiality requests. Each approval will be valid for two years. Once the two years have passed, a renewal must be submitted.


For a roundup of tariff-related news, visit Tariff Insider.

Please note that the information in our publications is compiled from a variety of sources based on the information we have to date. This information is provided to our community for informational purposes only, and we do not accept any liability or responsibility for reliance on the information contained herein.

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