The FTCR China Freight Index rose for a second straight month in April but remained below the average of the previous 12 months, with companies reporting only modest improvements in operating conditions. Their performance so far this year has been similar to the start of 2016, a period wracked by economic and financial-system volatility.

The headline index, at 46.8, was fractionally above last April’s 46.7, but below the 47.7 average for the past 12 months. It has been below the 50-point line that divides expansion from contraction for four straight months. Companies reported that shipment volumes remained weak and that freight rates fell at a slightly faster pace. Profits also fell for a fifth straight month, although a spike in costs in April does not appear to have exacerbated the problem. 

  • Our measure of freight volumes improved for a second straight month but remained below recent averages.
  • The FTCR China Freight Volume Index rose to 42.3 from 40.5, below the 44.6 average for the previous 12 months and last April’s 43.7.
  • Just 21.6 per cent of respondents said volumes were higher than the previous month, although this is the highest proportion so far this year. 
  • Respondents had a positive outlook for freight volumes for a second straight month.
  • Our Freight Outlook Index rose to 52.8 from 52.4, and was above the 50.7 reading of April 2016.
  • Freight rates fell for a third straight month, and at a slightly faster rate than in March.
  • The FTCR China Freight Rate Index fell 0.7 points month-on-month to 48.8, below the 49.5 average for the previous 12 months.
  • Just 17.4 per cent of respondents reported a month-on-month increase in rates, although this is the highest proportion since November 2016 (20.5 per cent).
  • Significantly more companies reported increasing freight costs than in March.
  • Our Freight Cost Index jumped 7.2 points month-on-month to 60.1, above the average 57 for the previous 12 months.
  • The proportion of respondents reporting that costs rose more than doubled from March, to 32.4 per cent. 
  • Freight companies reported a fifth straight month of falling profits. 
  • The FTCR China Freight Profit Index was unchanged at 43.7, having recorded only one reading above 50 in the past two years (November 2016).
  • The share of respondents saying profits rose month-on-month nevertheless increased to 16.9 per cent, the largest proportion since December 2015 (21.4 per cent).

The FTCR China Freight survey is based on interviews with 200 road, railway, waterway and air logistics companies. For further details click here. This report contains the headline figures from the latest Freight survey; the full results are available from our Database.

FT Confidential Research is an independent research service from the Financial Times, providing in-depth analysis of and statistical insight into China and Southeast Asia. Our team of researchers in these key markets combine findings from our proprietary surveys with on-the-ground research to provide predictive analysis for investors.