Kiel Trade Indicator 11/2021: Some positive indications in world trade, but no sustained recovery in sight

China's export figures signal a slight upward trend for November (nominal, seasonally adjusted) compared with the previous month, with an increase of 2.9 percent. Imports are unchanged. 

Germany's imports slumped sharply in the summer, and there are still no signs of a thorough recovery. The Kiel Trade Indicator shows a black zero of -0.2 percent in November. Exports are also expected to stagnate.

For the EU as a whole, the signs have reversed in a month-on-month comparison and the Kiel Trade Indicator shows a slight increase in exports (+1.5 percent) and imports (+1.1 percent) for November. US trade stagnated in November.

World trade is also likely to have stagnated in November—with a slightly positive trend (+0.2 percent).

Vincent Stamer, Head of Kiel Trade Indicator: "Global trade is stabilizing, but this is not yet a sign of lasting relief. At least the positive indications are becoming more frequent in November. The next few weeks will have to show whether the positive trend can be maintained in the winter when the pandemic picks up speed once again in some regions of the world. In addition, many goods are still blocked on ships stuck in congestion, and here the trend has recently been pointing rather in the wrong direction."  

Ship congestion outside the ports of Los Angeles, Savannah and in the Pearl River Delta is currently reducing slightly. In the first half of November, however, the proportion of goods blocked on ships has risen again. Cargo volumes in the Red Sea, an important indicator for European-Asian trade, are following the expected trends at a subdued level.

Stamer: "Hopes are pinned on the period after the Chinese New Year in the first half of 2022. However, it is not yet clear whether and how quickly global trade will return to normal. For the time being, we will have to continue to expect delivery delays and bottlenecks for some products." 

For more information on the Kiel Trade Indicator and forecasts for 75 countries, visit  

Changes in reporting

Beginning in December, media releases regarding the Kiel Trade Indicator are going to be published at the beginning of each month. Based on shipping data for the previous month the KTI provides an up-to-date picture of current export and import developments. Additionally, we will switch to real from nominal indicator values. We will continue updating the data on the KTI webpage twice a month. Around the 20th (without media release) for the current and the following month and around the 5th (including media release) for the previous and the current month.

The next updates of the Kiel Trade Indicator will be on December 7 (including media release) and December 20 (without media release).

About the Kiel Trade Indicator 

The Kiel Trade Indicator estimates trade flows (imports and exports) for 75 countries worldwide, the EU and world trade as a whole. It is based on the evaluation of ship movement data in real time. An algorithm programmed at the Kiel Institute uses artificial intelligence to analyze the data and translates the ship movements into nominal, seasonally adjusted growth figures compared with the previous month.

We update the data twice a month. Around the 20th (without press release) for the current and the following month and around the 5th (with press release) for the previous and the current month.

Arriving and departing ships are recorded for 500 ports worldwide. In addition, ship movements in 100 maritime regions are analyzed and the effective utilization of container ships is derived from draught information. Country-port correlations can be used to generate forecasts, even for countries without their own deep-sea ports.  

Compared to previous leading trade indicators, the Kiel Trade Indicator is available much earlier, is much more comprehensive, relies on a uniquely large database using big data, and has a low statistical error by comparison. The algorithm of the Kiel Trade Indicator uses machine learning, so that the quality of the forecast continues to improve over time.