Containerized export volumes are growing faster than imports in trans-Pacific trade lanes this year, fueled by surging exports of cotton, wastepaper and logs.
Through April, trans-Pacific exports jumped 11.4 percent, PIERS data show. Through May, import volume rose 5.5 percent as increased shipments of auto parts and tires offset declines of key household goods.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno said the slower growth in import volume reflects a sluggish economy that has raised unemployment, slowed spending and caused retailers and wholesales to keep a tight rein on inventories.
He noted that through May, toy imports were down 4 percent year-over-year. Furniture, which accounts for about 10 percent of containerized imports, declined 1 percent through May. Sheets, towels and blankets fell 16 percent.
Import volume rose 24 percent for auto parts and 20 percent for tires, despite supply constraints following the Japan earthquake in March. “Although auto sales in the U.S. are temporarily slowing, the outlook for auto parts for the rest of 2011 looks promising as demand abroad for U.S. motor vehicles remains solid,” Moreno said.
Export volume growth through April was led by paper and paperboard, up 17 percent, scrap metal, up 12 percent, and cotton, which soared 57 percent amid a buying frenzy by overseas manufacturers.
Westbound shipments of logs and lumber were up 43 percent as U.S. forest products producers used Chinese markets to offset a troubled domestic housing market. Woodpulp shipments increased 30 percent, aided by a weak dollar.