Six thousand miles from the Suez Canal in the U.S. Midwest, the chief executive of a multinational maker of industrial adhesives has one eye on the clogged trade artery and another on the ways to minimize the fallout on his $2.8 billion company.
“It just adds to the ongoing stress in the supply chain” for chemicals, Jim Owens, president and CEO of St. Paul, Minnesota-based H.B. Fuller Co., told Wall Street analysts as salvage crews failed to clear the Egyptian waterway late last week. “Is it going to transform everything in a negative way? No, but it’s an issue that we’re watching very carefully.”
So is the rest of the trade world. Efforts to free the beached Ever Given are nearing a pivotal stage, relying on machines and human engineering but also hoping for a celestial pull. High tide through Monday offers perhaps the best chance yet to float a steel behemoth that’s four times heavier than the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For the global economy, hanging in the balance daily is about $10 billion in commodities, industrial inputs and consumer products on ships that ply the canal, with supply-chain fears directed mostly at Asian exporters and European importers. The broader economic costs — small thus far in relation to $18 trillion in global goods trade annually — are compounding with each day the canal remains closed.
“It is a severe blow to the already constrained supply chains that were just recovering from the Covid pandemic,” Rahul Kapoor, vice president of maritime and trade at IHS Global Insight in Singapore, told Bloomberg Television on Friday. “If it goes into weeks, it could turn into what we could call catastrophic.”
Vincent Stamer, an international trade expert at Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy, said the delays thus far will cause economic damages, “but it’s too early to quantify them.”
It’s not too soon for companies to be making other plans. A few container ships and oil tankers are already avoiding the clogged shortcut between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and instead detouring around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. That adds more than a week to the Asia-to-Europe journey and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs, but it’s a hedge against a potentially even longer delay in transiting through the Suez.
About 320 vessels were still waiting on Saturday for the passageway to reopen.
Companies from the Swedish furniture giant Ikea to Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., the global maker of construction equipment, are among the customers of ocean freight weighing alternative sourcing plans.
In the short term, the added stress on trade will translate into higher transportation costs, tighter supplies, and more delivery delays for producers and purveyors of goods.
Even before the incident that closed the Suez, input costs in the euro area rose at the fastest pace in a decade, while measures of prices paid and charged by U.S. businesses advanced in March to fresh records as shortages of materials and disrupted supply chains sparked inflation concerns.
Over the longer run, it may force a rethinking about the dangers of too much globalization and of supply chains exposed to too much unforeseeable risk.
Overestimating those dangers might be a mistake, though, said Robert Koopman, chief economist of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. He sees the Suez situation as another test that the global economy will battle through in the weeks ahead, but will ultimately pass.
The giant, fully loaded ship is “a great photo op,” he said. “But I wouldn’t get too excited about the daily trade impact.”
Koopman said the canal blockage doesn’t mean global supply chains are at risk of disintegrating — it’s all part of doing business in today’s interconnected global economy. Whether it’s a winter cold snap in Texas that snarls production of petrochemicals, container shortages on Transpacific trade routes, or a fire at a chip-making plant in Japan — disruptions happen all the time, and companies adapt.
“There are real risks out there,” Koopman said in an interview on Friday. “They have to be heard about and paid attention to. I wouldn’t take it as instructive about the risk of over-globalization.”
International trade in goods has been a rare bright spot over the past year, and returned recently to pre-pandemic levels. That’s the danger with the latest supply shock — it could further fatigue already strained networks of ships, ports, trains, trucks and warehouses.
According to a report from Allianz Research, each week of no traffic through the Suez Canal could dent global trade growth by 0.2 to 0.4 percentage point. Even before the Suez incident, supply-chain disruptions since the start of the year might trim 1.4 percentage points from trade growth — about $230 billion of direct impact, Allianz said.
“The problem is that the Suez Canal blockage is the straw that breaks global trade’s back,” Allianz said in the note.
Caught in the turmoil are about 6,200 container ships that carry more than 80% of merchandise trade. Dominated by about a dozen companies based in Europe and Asia, they’re already operating at full capacity and charging record-high rates for the 20- and 40-foot-long boxes they’re struggling to align with global demand.
Diverting shipments around Africa for an extended period would cut about 6% of global container capacity from the market — roughly the equivalent of removing from service 74 ultra-large vessels like the one that burrowed into the banks of the Suez, according to a note late Friday from Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence.
“Such an amount of capacity absorption will have a global impact and lead to severe capacity shortages,” Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy said. “It will impact all trade lanes.”
Just how badly is difficult to say, as the Port of Rotterdam can attest. As last count on Friday, 59 ships caught in the Suez snarl were bound for Europe’s biggest seaport. The vessels might take a week or two to get there, or longer.
And they may come in manageable waves or in bunches that exceed the port’s capacity. The ships’ captains might radio an arrival well in advance, or maybe not.
Ready in Rotterdam
All that fresh uncertainty means “we have a challenge ahead,” said Rotterdam spokesman Leon Willems. “The number of containers they carry will be put on trains, barges and trucks and stored in depots — but these depots are quite full at the moment.”
At Minnesota’s H.B. Fuller, which gets about half its revenue outside the U.S., Feburary’s winter storms in Texas meant the temporary closing of some facilities, though Owens said on a conference call Thursday the company should make up for the lost business “and then some.” Now, staring down the troubles in the Suez, it has a team monitoring “exactly what materials that our suppliers have that might be on those ships,” he said.
“They’re well in the mode of managing those issues and a ship stuck in the Suez is exactly what they are set up to do,” Owens said. “They’ll manage it just fine.”
— With assistance by Alexander Weber
TSX extends gains as gold prices rise, set to rise for third week
(Reuters) -Canada’s main stock index extended its rise on Friday after hitting a record high a day earlier as gold prices advanced, and was set to gain for a third straight week.
* At 9:40 a.m. ET (13:38 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange‘s S&P/TSX composite index was up 24.24 points, or 0.1%, at 19,326.16.
* The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace in this quarter and the next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.
* The energy sector climbed 0.6% even as U.S. crude prices slipped 0.1% a barrel. Brent crude added 0.1%. [O/R]
* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.3% as gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,777.9 an ounce. [GOL/] [MET/L]
* The financials sector gained 0.2%. The industrials sector rose 0.1%.
* On the TSX, 117 issues advanced, while 102 issues declined in a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring gainers, with 14.26 million shares traded.
* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Cascades Inc, which jumped 4.2%, and Ballard Power Systems, which rose 2.9%.
* Lghtspeed POS fell 5.6%, the most on the TSX, while the second biggest decliner was goeasy, down 4.9%.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Zenabis Global Inc, Bombardier and Royal Bank of Canada.
* The TSX posted 23 new 52-week highs and no new low.
* Across Canadian issues, there were 160 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows, with total volume of 29.68 million shares.
(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)
Canadian economy likely to slow, but COVID-19 threat to growth low
By Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore
BENGALURU (Reuters) – The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace this quarter and next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.
Restrictions have been renewed in some provinces as they struggle with a rapid spread of the virus, which has already infected over 1 million people in the country.
After an expected 5.6% growth in the first quarter, the economy was forecast to expand 3.6% this quarter, a sharp downgrade from 6.7% predicted in January.
It was then forecast to grow 6.0% in the third quarter and 5.5% in the fourth, compared with 6.8% and 5.0% forecast previously.
But over three-quarters of economists, or 16 of 21, in response to an additional question said tighter curbs from another COVID-19 wave were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, including one respondent who said “very unlikely”.
“Canada is undergoing a third wave of the virus and while case loads are accelerating, the resiliency the economy has shown in the face of the second wave suggests it can ride out the third wave as well, without considerable economic consequences,” said Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Economics.
The April 12-16 poll of 40 economists forecast the commodity-driven economy would grow on average 5.8% this year, the fastest pace of annual expansion in 13 years and the highest prediction since polling began in April 2019.
For next year, the consensus was upgraded to 4.0% from 3.6% growth predicted in January.
What is likely to help is the promise of a fiscal package by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last year, which the Canadian government was expected to outline, at least partly, in its first federal budget in two years, on April 19.
When asked what impact that would have, over half, or 11 of 20 economists, said it would boost the economy significantly. Eight respondents said it would have little impact and one said it would have an adverse impact.
“The economic impact of the federal government’s promised C$100 billion fiscal stimulus will depend most importantly on its make up,” said Tony Stillo, director of Canada economics at Oxford Economics.
“A stimulus package that enhances the economy’s potential could provide a material boost to growth without stoking price pressures.”
All but two of 17 economists expected the Bank of Canada to announce a taper to the amount of its weekly bond purchases at its April 21 meeting. The consensus showed interest rates left unchanged at 0.25% until 2023 at least.
“The BoC is set to cut the pace of its asset purchases next week,” noted Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.
“While it will also upgrade its GDP forecasts, we expect it to make an offsetting change to its estimate of the economy’s potential, implying the Bank will not materially alter its assessment of when interest rates need to rise.”
(Reporting and polling by Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore; editing by Rahul Karunakar, Larry King)
CANADA STOCKS – TSX rises 0.78% to 19,321.92
* The Toronto Stock Exchange‘s TSX rises 0.78 percent to 19,321.92
* Leading the index were Martinrea International Inc <MRE.TO>, up 7.4%, Fortuna Silver Mines Inc, up 7.1%, and Hudbay Minerals Inc, higher by 6.7%.
* Lagging shares were AcuityAds Holdings Inc, down 6.7%, Ballard Power Systems Inc, down 6.5%, and Northland Power Inc, lower by 6.0%.
* On the TSX 165 issues rose and 60 fell as a 2.8-to-1 ratio favored advancers. There were 18 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 203.0 million shares.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Royal Bank Of Canada, Suncor Energy Inc and Air Canada.
* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.59 points, or 0.5%, while the financials sector climbed 0.86 points, or 0.3%.
* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.27%, or $0.17, to $63.32 a barrel. Brent crude rose 0.36%, or $0.24, to $66.82 [O/R]
* The TSX is up 10.8% for the year.