The second U.S. economic stimulus package for first-time home buyers led to a 20 percent increase in containerized U.S. imports from China during May, and 8.1 percent in April and an overall 12.2 percent year-to-date, according to trade data compiled and analyzed by PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions, a sister company of The Journal of Commerce.
New homeowners purchasing furniture caused an 18 percent surge in furniture imports, but the increase is not expected to last, PIERS said Tuesday.
China is importing and exporting goods at a record pace. Overall container traffic moving through Chinese ports soared by 21.9 percent in May from a year earlier, hitting an all-time monthly high of 12.44 million 20-foot equivalent container units.
PIERS said cargo backlogs and rising freight rates are heating up, primarily because of tight capacity, indicative of a peak season arriving two months early.
"The tax credit for first-time home buyers appears to be the reason for the early increase in traffic,” said PIERS Chief Economist Mario Moreno. “Homeowners seeking to furnish their new residence are stimulating an increase in the furniture category," he said.
The data is consistent with the timing of the U.S. government incentive. To qualify, homebuyers had to sign a purchase contract by April 30 and close the deal by June 30. As a result, new home sales surged by 14.8 percent in April to an annual rate of 504,000, while plunging 33 percent in May.
Imports of furniture from China increased in May to 114,000 TEUS up by 17,378 from the previous year. June statistics are likely to reveal this trend of increased inbound shipments for furniture. Even imports of blankets, sheets and towels are showing a significant increase of 32.8 percent over 2009.
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