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  • Writer's pictureStephen Fodor

WTO cautious after sharp services trade rebound

March 12, 2021

(Reuters) - Trade in services grew an accelerated pace at the end of last year, but momentum appears set to slow as spikes of COVID-19 cases bring a return of lockdowns, the World Trade Organization said on Thursday.

The WTO’s services trade barometer rose to a record high of 104.7 in March after 95.6 in September and a low of 91.2 in March 2020, the Geneva-based trade body said.

“World services trade appears to be in a recovery phase... However, continued weakness in some sectors and an uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines cast some doubt on the durability of the recovery,” the WTO said.

The WTO said that components of its “barometer” related to purchasing managers’ indexes, container shipping, construction and financial services all rose above their medium-term trends.

By contrast, IT services were weak, driven down by stricter U.S. lockdowns weighing on computer services, and air transport was very weak.

The WTO services trade barometer is a composite of published data and is designed to gauge momentum in global trade growth rather than to provide a specific short-term forecast.

It dates back to 2000, with a reading of 100 marking the boundary between above and below trend growth.

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