James Hamilton, 08 July 2019

Shipping costs offer a potentially attractive measure of world real economic activity. However, the popular approach of removing a deterministic trend is not consistent with the observed behaviour of shipping costs and results in an unrealistic measure in data since 2015. This column compares alternative monthly measures based on shipping costs with direct estimates of world industrial production in terms of coherence with world GDP and usefulness for forecasting commodity prices, and concludes that industrial production is a much better measure. If shipping costs are to be used, the cyclical component should not be calculated using residuals from a linear trend.

Lutz Kilian, Xiaoqing Zhou, 09 November 2017

Global commodity prices surged across the board after 2003, with some observers claiming that this reflected a permanent increase in global real economic activity. This column argues that this was a persistent but transitory phenomena tied to rising commodity demand from Asia. It presents evidence of a global economic slowdown since 2011, with low real commodity prices likely to persist.

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