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False dawns and renewed hope: confidence in shipping since the global financial crisis

Shipping confidence held steady in the three months to end-May 2018 according to UK shipping accountant Moore Stephens’ latest Confidence Survey, which also marks the tenth anniversary since the poll started.

The average confidence level expressed by respondents was unchanged at the four-year high of 6.4 out of 10.0 recorded in February 2018. Confidence on the part of owners was also sustained at a four-year high, of 6.6, while managers’ confidence was up from 6.4 to 6.7. The rating for charterers was up to 6.7 from 5.0 and confidence in the broking sector was up from 6.1 to 6.3.

The survey was launched in May 2008, just ahead of the global financial crisis, with an overall rating for all respondents of 6.8.

The likelihood of respondents making a major investment or significant development over the next 12 months was down on the previous survey from 5.5 to 5.2 out of a maximum possible score of 10.0. Confidence was highest among charterers, followed by owners (down from 5.9 to 5.5), managers (down from 5.6 to 5.4) and brokers (down from 4.0 to 3.5).

The number of respondents expecting higher freight rates in both the tanker and container ship sectors was up, from 39% to 50% and from 38% to 43% respectively. In the dry bulk trades, such expectations were unchanged at 54%. Net sentiment in the tanker sector was +41, in the dry bulk trades +43, and for container ships, +32.

Moore Stephens first launched the survey in 2008 just months before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

Over the past ten years, confidence averages out at 5.8 out of 10.0. The low point was the 5.0 out of 10.0 recorded in February 2016, around the time the Baltic Dry Index also hit record lows. The graph of the shipping confidence over the last 10 years (see below) also shows the false dawn in the markets around 2013.

“The survey reflects the sentiments of a volatile industry in a particularly volatile decade. Significant events have included the peak of a boom, a prolonged global financial recession, crises in the banking sector, the collapse of stock markets, the Greek debt crisis, Brexit, and an unprecedented level of government and industry bail-outs,” Moore Stephens noted in a release, adding: “Ten years is a long time in shipping, and the past decade has doubtless felt a lot longer still to those industry participants who have lived through it, even those inured to the peculiar cyclicality of the industry. Confidence may have fluctuated, but it has never collapsed, and portents for the coming decade can reasonably be expected to be better.”

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