Concerns about geopolitical factors have taken their toll on shipping confidence in Moore Stephens' latest survey, with confidence levels slipping from the four-year high of 6.4 out of a maximum of 10.
Confidence levels dipped slightly to 6.3 out of 10 in the three months to end August 2018, amid escalating trade tensions between the USA and China.
In a stand-alone question, 44 percent of respondents said they expected tariff wars to have “some” impact on the industry over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 42 percent categorised such impact as “considerable,” and 11 percent felt that it would be “minimal”.
Confidence on the part of owners, however, was up from 6.6 to 6.8, equalling the highest level achieved by this category of respondent since the survey was launched in May 2008. Charterer confidence was also up, increasing from 6.7 to 7, the highest level for nine months.
The ratings for managers, however, was down from 6.7 to 6.2, and for brokers from 6.3 to 4.9.
Geographically, confidence grew in Asia, up from 6.1 to 6.3, equalling the highest rating achieved over the past 12 months. Expectations of major investments were up in both Asia, from 5.9 to 6.1, and Europe, from 4.8 to 5.3.
“A small dip in confidence is not the news the industry wanted to hear, but confidence remains at its second-highest level for four-and-half years. Moreover, it is significant that the confidence of both owners and charterers actually increased,” said Richard Greiner, Moore Stephens' partner, shipping and transport.
Concerns about geopolitical factors dominated the comments from respondents, said Greiner, adding: “These were led by President Trump’s efforts to transform US trade relations, but also included state support for shipping in China and South Korea.
“Fortunately, shipping is accustomed to playing on the big stage, against a volatile backdrop and to a demanding audience. The Baltic Dry Index is up on a year ago and oil prices are on the rise. These and other positive portents encourage the belief that shipping is starting to recover, albeit slowly, from a ten-year downturn,” adds Greiner.