More Signs Point to Recession in Europe

Companies in Europe are already scaling back spending, as evidenced by a dramatic drop in the Baltic Dry Index (the Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index, which tracks rates to ship dry commodities). It has fallen almost 50% so far this month, nearing a three-year low as slow Chinese demand compounded fleet growth troubles.

“The freight market is completely oversupplied because shippers put in orders for new vessels two years ago in expectation of a firm recovery by now,” one freight paper trader said, and added: “They clearly did not expect the crisis to reignite as it has.”

Plunging graph

Analyst Lou Basenese declares:

The Baltic Dry Index tracks the cost of shipping major raw materials (iron ore, coal, grain, cement, copper, sand and gravel, fertilizer and even plastic granules). Or, more simply, it tracks the precursors of economic output. As such, the Index provides a measurement of the volume of global trade at the earliest possible stage.

When I last reported on the Baltic Dry Index in October 2011, it was coming off an impressive two-month, 50% rally. That rally’s come to an end. As you can see in the chart above, the Index is down 48.4% in the last month, and 54.4% in the last three months.

The culprit is Europe, of course. You’ll recall that European sovereign debt fears spiked (again) last October. And that’s precisely when the Baltic Dry Index also began its descent. Coincidence? I think not. And the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have my back. On Wednesday, the World Bank cut its world economic growth forecast explicitly because of Europe’s never-ending debt crisis. Meanwhile, as Europe’s debt crisis persists, Bloomberg reports that the IMF plans to cut its global growth forecasts, too.

Another bit of bad news is that Spain has come out and admitted that it will not be able to meet the agreed-to target deficit of 4.4% go GDP, as projected GDP growth is now weaker than previously thought. James Kostohryz says that the unfolding of a global fiasco is upon us:

In various articles I have said that the endgame in Europe will probably take the form of PIIGS economies shrinking more than expected, their revenues shrinking more than expected and fiscal deficits ballooning more than expected. All of this will cause fiscal targets and commitments to be violated on the part of PIIGS. This in turn will lead to a showdown with Germany centered on how such shortfalls will be handled.

Spain has now begun the process of acknowledging publicly that it will violate its commitments under recent accords; it is preparing the way for confrontation. According to various reports, Budget Minister Cristobol Montoro has warned that Spain will not meet its target deficit of 4.4% of GDP in 2012. Montoro said that this target was based on an outdated forecast of 2.3% economic growth for Spain in 2012 made by the previous government.

In my view, the absolute best-case scenario for Spain’s GDP growth in 2012 will be a contraction of -2.0%. My own base case estimate is for a contraction of -3.5%. A contraction that exceeds -5.0% is entirely plausible.


And the Food Stamp President will continue to embrace the same failed policies that are destroying Europe.

Posted January 21st, 2012 Filed in Economics and the Economy, Europe