Hong Kong Cargo Traffic Fell In 2011

January 26, 2012

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Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), the world's busiest air cargo hub, said air cargo traffic in 2011 fell 4.6 percent as deepening global economic uncertainty in Europe and the United States hurt demand for exports from Asia, particularly China.

The outlook for air cargo, an important indicator of trade and economic momentum, is uncertain as consumer sentiment in Hong Kong's two major export markets, North America and Europe, remains fragile.

"Cargo tonnage may decline further due to the slowdown in global trade but the pace of decline will likely be less than what we have seen in 2011," said Airport Authority Hong Kong chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chun in a statement.

Air cargo volume in December fell 4.3 percent, slightly better than the 6.6 percent drop seen in November, pushing full-year traffic down to 3.94 million tonnes.

Hong Kong's exports rose a modest 2 percent year on year in November, slowing from 11.5 percent growth in October and reflecting the impact of cooling global economic conditions.

The euro zone economy grew just 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and is widely expected to have contracted in the final three months of the year.

In the United States, improving labour market conditions lifted consumer confidence to an eight-month high in December, but persistently weak house prices remain an obstacle to faster economic growth.

Analysts and Hong Kong government officials have said the outlook for the city's economy and exports does not look promising.

Cathay Pacific Airways, the world's largest air cargo carrier, said this month that its December freight volume fell about 12 percent, ending 2011 on a disappointing note, and it saw no sign of improvement in the near term.

On a brighter note, Hong Kong passenger traffic for 2011 rose 5.9 percent to a record 53.9 million, propelled by an increase in visits to and from mainland China and Southeast Asia.