One useful forecasting datapoint

Here’s an interesting datapoint for our futuring purposes: the Baltic Dry Index.  It’s a daily number generated by this British outfit, checking on global shipping prices.

Why does this matter?  Assessing how much it costs to schlepp stuff requires evaluating data for all kinds of economically powerful stuff: fuel prices, commodity prices, market demand.  Moreover, as a good Slate article from 2003 notes,

The BDI is a good leading indicator for economic growth and production. After all, it doesn’t deal with container ships carrying finished goods. It deals with the precursors to production: bulk carriers carrying building materials, cement, grain, coal, and iron. Unlike stock and bond markets, the BDI “is totally devoid of speculative content,” says Howard Simons, an economist and columnist at TheStreet.com. People don’t book freighters unless they have cargo to move.

Sounds very dry, as it were.

Bloomberg carries it, unsurprisingly. WikiInvest has a nice combination of live chart with background.  This Russian site has the best, cleanest version I’ve seen so far.  Alas, things look grim:

Checking for one year, as of 2/12/2012

Why does this matter for the future of education?  Baltic Dry could give us advance warning of economic conditions, which shape private institutions’ endowment and the revenues for states funding publics.

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