The WTOI is a leading indicator of world trade, designed to provide "real time" information on the trajectory of merchandise trade three to four months ahead of trade volume statistics. It combines several trade-related indices into a single composite indicator to measure short-run performance against medium-run trends. A reading of 100 indicates trade growth in line with trend, while readings greater or less than 100 suggest above or below trend growth.
With a current reading of 102.0 for the month of November, the WTOI points to above-trend trade growth in February-March. The WTOI has risen further above trend since the last release three months ago, when the indicator stood at 100.9.
Four of the six component indices of the latest WTOI are more positive than the reading for August. Air freight, automobile sales, export orders and container shipping are all moving in a positive direction above trend and rising. Data on international freight tonne kilometres from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have risen sharply as European air carriers posted strong growth. Container port throughput of major ports has largely recovered from its recent slump while the automobile index has also rebounded after dipping in the middle of last year. On the other hand, indices for electronics and agricultural raw materials trade are both below trend.
The WTO trade forecast issued on 27 September last year foresaw world merchandise trade growth of 1.7% in 2016 and growth between 1.8% and 3.1% in 2017.The WTOI currently suggests that trade volume may begin to recover in the fourth quarter once data become available. Any such rebound would have to be fairly strong for trade growth in 2016 to match the 1.7% increase forecast by the WTO last September.
The WTOI is not intended as a short-term forecast, although it does provide an indication of trade growth in the near future. Its main contribution is to identify turning points and gauge momentum in global trade growth. As such, it complements trade statistics and forecasts from the WTO and other organizations.
The full World Trade Outlook Indicator is available here.
Further details on the methodology are contained in the technical note here.