Sun Kwang Newport Container Terminal in Incheon, South Korea. Video: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg 

Electronics is Upbeat Signal Amid Data Noise on Trade Tracker

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Strong demand for electronics continues to underpin global trade even as a global container shortage, limited semiconductor stock, a run-up in fuel prices and Covid-related supply chain disruptions threaten to hamper the recovery.

Shipping gauges from some of the biggest ports in the world in Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong each slipped in January, just ahead of the Lunar New Year, from promising readings at the end of 2020. Wobbly year-on-year comparisons to the onset of the pandemic lie ahead.

Underneath the noise, there’s still underlying positive momentum from the booming electronics cycle, with surging Taiwan exports in the spotlight. HSBC’s co-head of Asia economic research Frederic Neumann sees the sector “continuing to barrel ahead” amid a global chip shortage and still-strong demand from stay-at-home consumers.

The February sentiment gauges on the Tracker, due at the turn of the month, will offer a critical, possibly clearer read of where things stand on trade. Businesses and purchasing managers across the U.S., China, Germany and Singapore were less upbeat at the start of 2020, and now they have to weigh how supply bottlenecks will impact their plans.

We’ve selected measures across shipping, sentiment and export volumes to watch for signs of stress amid the tensions. For the clearest indication, we measured how far each gauge is from historic norms.

How the indicators compare 👆

Latest data available for shipping, sentiment and export volume indicators, z-scores*