Damco North America

I doubt there’s ever been a time where it was more difficult to predict what the year ahead will bring.

As we leave 2011, which by no means was as tough as 2009, but where the market was more depressed than in 2010, we are left wondering which economic indicators corporate boards, shareholders and customers will monitor to gauge the year ahead.

Over the last year, Wall Street has largely focused on global economic data, unemployment figures, consumer sentiment and various other key financial indicators to navigate the unpredictable currents impacting the U.S. and world markets. Today, we’re anxious over the unknown monetary pressure eurozone countries will have on world markets. How these struggling economies will influence global trade and what effect they may have on the volatile financial state of affairs is to be determined. It’s clear, however, that globalization more than ever is causing world markets to become one.

The impact on the world’s supply chain is evident. Unpredictable markets lead to uncertainty in areas such as sourcing, hedging and reductions in orders. The yo-yo effects we’ve seen in retail numbers, freight rates and inventories are all factors of the instability we’ve experienced and will probably become the norm for the foreseeable future. A tactical approach to combating future uncertainties is paramount.

I suggest 2012 will be a stable year with gradual improvements and growth on most fronts. This would be good news for all parties within our industry. Third-party logistics providers capable of supporting customers with the solutions to navigate through this storm will ultimately survive today’s challenging business environment.

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