Optimism Swells on Global Trade

Companies in the U.S. and overseas are expecting some improvement in global trade. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. businesses believe trade volumes will increase in the next six months, according to the latest HSBC global trade survey, up from the 41% who predicted an increase in trade six months earlier.

The optimism isn't limited to the United States; 64% of Latin American businesses expect a pick-up in trade, as do 63% in both the Middle East and Greater China, and 61% in India.

U.S. businesses were nervous about foreign exchange volatility, though, with 40% citing fluctuating exchange rates as the biggest barrier to growth in the coming six months, up from the 29% who cited it as a problem six months earlier.

"That heightened optimism is very strong, not only through the U.S. data, but even in the global survey," says William Nowicki, head of trade and supply chain for HSBC North America. "It gives you a good sense that the economy is starting to stabilize and improve globally."

U.S. companies were fairly confident about being able to get the trade financing they need; just 5% expect any decrease in the availability of financing, while 23% expect trade financing to increase, according to the survey. Their concerns about the risks that trading partners will fail to pay or fail to deliver were little changed from six months earlier.

HSBC surveys 5,000 small and midsize companies worldwide, and Nowicki says the survey results also highlight the importance of intraregional trade. "We know very well that the U.S. and Canada are always important trading partners, but from a global perspective, trade between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia is an interesting one," he says. "I think that's one that we'll see continue to grow over the next several years."

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