By Colin Simpson at Bloomberg
A new Chinese shipping index that tracks freight movements among the countries on the route of one of President Xi Jinping's key trade initiatives has fallen to the lowest level since it was established.
The Maritime Silk Road Freight Index was launched on a trial basis by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange last July. The index takes January 2015 as its base point, and at that time it had a value of 100.
The latest update, released on February 29, shows that the index has declined to 65.11 after falling 10.3 percent over the previous month alone.
The index is divided into four subindexes—container imports, container exports, dry bulk imports and tanker imports—each of which began with a value of 100. The dry bulk figure has declined to 56.14, down 7.3 percent since the end of January. The index is based on the freight volume and rate, and the data is taken from other indices published by the SSE
In August, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reported SSE President Zhang Ye as saying the index was intended to "enhance the transparency and influence of the market."
China's economic slowdown has triggered a drastic decline in worldwide shipping activity. China's exports fell 25.4 percent year on year in February, and imports were down 13.8 percent.
The Baltic Dry Index, the global measure of the cost of shipping coal, iron ore, grain and other non-oil commodities, fell to a record low in February. At 9 a.m. on Friday it stood at $384, down from a peak of $1,222 in August.
Xi proposed the creation of the Maritime Silk Road, a trade route linking China with countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe, in 2013. The following year he said China would provide $40 billion to support infrastructure development and other projects in countries along the route and that of another trade channel, the Silk Road Economic Belt.