Combined imports into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach grew 23.9 percent in August over the same month a year ago, and the ports defied analyst forecasts of a slowdown by reporting their strongest volume of the year, according to port figures released this week.
Containerized imports in Los Angeles were up 23.3 percent compared to August 2009 and neighboring Long Beach saw imports increase 24.5 percent over the same month last year.
Both ports signaled the import growth momentum was not slowing down: Los Angeles in August recorded its highest volume of imports for 2010, with imports 8 percent higher than in July. Long Beach’s imports in August were 6 percent higher than in July 2010.
By The Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Southern California Ports.
Industry analysts had predicted the peak shipping season had already crested in July, saying retailers shipped early this year and would rein in restocking without stronger improvement in the broader U.S. economy. Since the Southern California ports handle almost 40 percent of U.S. imports, it appears July will not be the peak month for U.S. imports, however.
The strong volume figures from Los Angeles and Long Beach follow a U.S. Commerce Department report this week that showed retail sales increased 0.4 percent, the second straight monthly gain and the strongest month-to-month increase in five months. Excluding weak auto sales, which were weak, consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, or twice what economist had predicted, on better back-to-school sales.
With August turning out to be a good month in the eastbound Pacific, the peak season months of September and October may also be better than anticipated. That would be good news for shipping lines, which have seen freight rates drift lower in recent weeks. The Port of Los Angeles noted the number of empty containers being returned to Asia to be reloaded with import cargo for the U.S. was up 56.6 percent compared to August 2009.
Summer is considered the slack season for exports, and the Southern California ports saw a slow August in line with historical trends. Containerized exports at Los Angeles were down 1.8 percent from August 2009, while exports in Long Beach fell 3.5 percent year over year.
Exports should pick up in late fall and stay strong into the winter months. Agricultural exports such as grains and cotton are projected to be larger than usual because of poor harvests in some other exporting nations.