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Global trade flow finance volumes dropped almost 39% to $7.9 billion (via 67 deals) in the first quarter, compared to $12.9 billion (via 177 deals) in the first quarter of 2011, according to Dealogic trade finance data.
Overall total global trade finance volume (which includes export credit agency, structured commodity, supply chain and trade flow finance) also fell, 18% year-on-year to $26.8 billion.
Trade flow took up 28% of overall trade finance business for the same period (see chart). Dealogic defines trade flow as short-term financing facilities including letters of credit, guarantee facilities and documentary credit.
Syndicated trade financing loan volume fell 84% year-on-year to $1.8 billion as just nine deals were completed, down from 47 deals in first quarter of 2011.
Export credit agency financing has been able to fill part of the gap. Volumes reached $14.3 billion (via 73 deals) in the first quarter of 2012, up 65% on the $8.7 billion raised in the first quarter of 2011. However, over a four-year period this level of quarterly activity is the lowest since the fourth quarter in 2008.
The collapse of syndicated trade financing has been covered in the April-May edition of The Corporate Treasurer and its impact on ship financing. European banks were major financers in this space but Basel III and the European sovereign debt crisis has dried up liquidity.
But government-directed agencies can't do it on their own. The European Central Bank has stepped in to inject liquidity into the banking system but trade advisors say there is no good news on the horizon. Basel-III will make syndicated loan financing expensive whichever way you look at it.