Feb 5, 2020 - Economy

The Baltic Dry Index is sinking

Data: Baltic Exchange: Chart: Axios Visuals

The Baltic Dry Index, a bellwether of the maritime shipping industry, continues to sink and a main component has fallen below zero to a record low, the Wall Street Journal reported.

What's happening: The Baltic Exchange’s capesize index, a component of the Baltic Dry Index that tracks the world's largest dry-bulk carriers, dug deeper into negative territory Tuesday, after going negative on Friday for the first time.

Why it matters: The Baltic Dry Index is seen as representative of demand for raw materials, which can be an early indicator of increasing or decreasing global growth. The index fell by more than 90% in just a few months in 2008.

Yes, but: The index is "much more complicated than the guys on CNBC or the WSJ would have you believe," a spokesperson for the Baltic Exchange tells Axios.

  • "This is an index of freight rates. ... It’s based on the assessment at a specific time by brokers who are specialists in the various routes."
  • "It's important to remember we’re neither in the Baltic, nor an exchange."

Fun fact: The capesize index is so named because it tracks only ships too large to fit through the Suez or Panama canals that must pass through the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

Go deeper: Climate change is opening a new era in Arctic shipping

Go deeper