The Baltic Dry Index is all about the cost of shipping major raw materials. Like iron ore, coal, grain, cement, copper, sand and gravel, fertilizer, even plastic granules.
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is a measure of what it costs to ship raw materials—like iron ore, steel, cement, coal and so on—around the world. The Baltic Dry Index is compiled daily by The Baltic Exchange. To compile the index, members of the Baltic Exchange call dry bulk shippers around the world to see what their prices are for 22 different shipping routes around the globe. Once they have obtained these numbers, they compile them and find an average.
The value for the index is determined by the London-based Baltic Exchange, which traces its origins back to 1744. Each day, the exchange canvasses hundreds of brokers around the world for price quotes on moving goods. For instance: Shipping 100,000 tons of coal from South Africa to Japan, or 50,000 tons of iron ore from Australia to China. It then aggregates the quotes to form the Baltic Dry Index.
4 Reasons to Favor The Baltic Dry Index
Of course, there are other reasons to favor the Baltic Dry Index over other leading indicators, including:
No room for speculation. The index is not tradable, which means the only people booking cargo ships are those with actual cargo to ship. That makes the Baltic Dry Index, as economist Howard Simons put it, “totally devoid of speculative content.”
Not subject to revisions. Unlike almost every other piece of economic data, the Baltic Dry Index is not revised on a monthly or quarterly basis. The price is the price. And it’s completely reliable.
An inability to be manipulated. Governments, both here and abroad, love to “massage” economic data, especially inflation figures. Obviously, it’s difficult to base investment decisions off incomplete or “mostly” accurate data. But because of the way the Baltic Dry Index is measured, that’s simply not possible. Again, the price is the price. And it’s completely reliable.
Real-time, daily updates. We all know markets shift fast. And in turn, we need indicators able to reflect those sudden movements. At best, we only get weekly updates for other leading indicators. And all are backward looking. The Baltic Dry Index represents the only indicator with “real-time” updates. And such frequency dramatically increases its relevancy and value.
In light of the above, it doesn’t take a market maven to predict what direction the index’s been heading lately – practically straight down. Here’s the thing. The Baltic Dry Index started plummeting in early June, before the global equity markets went into a tailspin, proving its predictive abilities.