U.S. containerized imports rose 5.9 percent to 1.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units in May from a year earlier, despite weakness in shipments of bedrock inbound goods such as furniture and toys, according to PIERS, a Journal of Commerce sister company.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno noted May’s growth compared with a 9 percent year-to-year increase in April. He forecasts 4.7 percent growth for the entire year. Through the first five months of the year, imports were up 7.2 percent.
May’s import volume was 6.3 percent ahead of the April volume, reflecting the accelerating seasonal pace of shipping. But the underlying commodity trends suggested weakness in key goods that are usually part of the growth heading into the peak shipping season.
Auto parts shipments jumped 29 percent over last year as automobile factories tried to catch up following disruptions in the wake of the natural disasters that hit Japan in March.
But import volume has been affected by the deepening slump in housing and an unemployment rate that stood at 9 1 percent last month.
Home sales affects products such as furniture, which accounts for more than 10 percent of total U.S. containerized imports, Furniture imports fell 2 percent last month to 153,343 TEUs. Imports of sheets, towels and blankets plunged 17 percent or 4,842 TEUs.
And tightness in discretionary spending is reflected in imports of toys, which were down 9 percent year-to-year in May, the fourth straight month of decline.
China remains the top source of U.S. containerized imports, with a 47.6 percent share in May. Imports from China rose 3.2 percent year-to-year to 716,675 TEUs, boosted by auto parts and footwear. Imports from Japan rose 17 percent to 50,422 TEUs, mostly due to revived shipments of automotive cargo.