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WILTSHIRE, UK-Optimism is returning to the logistics market, according to a mid-May report from global logistics research firm Transport Intelligence. The firm’s most recent Global Logistics Business Confidence Index shows the level of confidence expressed by people in the industry worldwide rose from -26 in February to +4 in April.

“The rebound in confidence over the past month has been significant,” says TI chief executive John Manners-Bell. “It is too early to call an upturn, but…we should not be blind to the positive sentiment our Index reveals.”

At the same time, Manners-Bell notes that the index of current performance continued to weaken, dropping to -4.43 in April from +1.05 in March. He says the contrast between the performance and confidence indices represents a belief the economic downturn will not be long-lasting.

Regionally, survey respondents consider the North American market the weakest, though they anticipate it will experience a greater bounce back than other markets by this time next year. Asia Pacific and Western European respondents are also confident about the future, but Central & Eastern European respondents expect their markets to weaken significantly over the next 12 months.

According to TI, contract logistics executives show both the highest level of confidence in the present market and highest level of optimism about the future, while respondents from the express sector expect a strong rebound in the long run but are less confident about short-term prospects. Intermodal executives foresee the weakest market conditions in a year’s time.

On a less hopeful note, the report says the fact that logistics service providers are more optimistic than shippers, who are in more direct contact with producers, suggests that recovery might further away than hoped for.

In regard to the survival of individual logistics companies, Manners-Bell says, “With a downturn in volumes and margins being pressurized, contract logistics companies are focusing internally rather than looking for external opportunities. I believe this will continue to be the case in 2009 despite the general perception that ‘distressed’ targets may soon be coming onto the market. As the market picks up in 2010 there is likely to be a surge of mergers and acquisitions activity.”

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