April freight traffic highlights weakening in cargo growth

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April data from IATA shows a slight weakening in the growth in air cargo seen over recent months, though the airline body is optimistic overall economic factors indicate current sluggish demand drivers will only be temporary.

Air freight levels began climbing back in the last quarter of 2013, but demand stayed at those levels during the first three months of this year. IATA figures show cargo demand as measured by freight tonne-kilometres was 3.2% higher in April than in the same month last year. But the traffic levels were slightly down on January and about 1% down on March.

“Trading conditions for air freight are difficult,” says IATA director general Tony Tyler. “Overall, business activity and trade have shifted down a gear after a strong end to 2013. And this is taking its toll on growth in the air cargo sector. Developed economies are still maintaining post-recession momentum and the expectation is for a stronger finish to the year.”

IATA notes that largely because of a further slowdown in emerging markets – mostly China – indicators of business confidence slipped further in April. “Levels still point toward growth, but at the weakest pace for the past five months. World trade growth has also slowed over recent months,” it says. “However, momentum in advanced economies remains intact, and export orders still point to expansion. This suggests that current sluggishness in the demand drivers is likely temporary.”