IATA sees "encouraging signs" in air freight market

Global air freight traffic rose 4.5 percent in January, driven by growth in Asia and the Middle East in an encouraging start to the year although it remains well below levels seen two years ago, IATA said on Monday.

"The air freight business is showing some encouraging signs. But it's too early to be overly optimistic," said Tony Tyler, Chief Executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Freight traffic rebounded from December when it fell 0.5 percent from a year earlier. However, Tyler said the volume of goods shipped by air was still below levels reported in 2010 and 2011 and pointed to weakness in the global economic recovery.

The Middle East was the fastest-growing region in January with air freight traffic there increasing 16.3 percent from a year earlier after the addition of new capacity and routes in the region.

Asia-Pacific carriers, which transport nearly 40 percent of global air cargo, also saw rising volumes in January on improving demand for goods from South Korea and elsewhere.

Last year, global air cargo demand contracted by 1.5 percent as world trade slowed.

IATA is due to publish air passenger traffic for January on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Susan Fenton)