Soft demand for home goods helped push U.S. containerized imports down 5.4 percent last month from July 2010 after a 1.7 percent year-over-year decline the previous month.
July’s import volume totaled 1,432,602 twenty-foot-equivalent units, PIERS data show. The numbers suggest an “anemic” buildup to the annual peak season for holiday imports, said Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno.
Second quarter imports rose 4 percent, in line with Moreno’s forecast. He expects imports to rise or fall by no more than 1 percent in the third quarter and to rise 1 to 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter. He expects to lower his full year forecast to a range of 2.5 to 3.5 percent from the previous 4.7 percent.
By the Numbers: U.S. Container Trade
He noted that year-to-year comparisons were affected by comparisons with July 2010, when importers booked early to avoid capacity constraints, but said retailers and consumers are cautious in a shaky economy.
“The downward trend in imports of major home goods such as furniture and sheets, towels and blankets continues on a search for a bottom,” Moreno said.
Imports of furniture and furnishings, which account for approximately 10 percent of containerized imports and are closely tied with home sales, slumped 8 percent, PIERS data show.
Sheets, towels and blankets were down 13 percent. Kitchenware imports fell 12 percent, while lamps and parts were down 8 percent. Also declining were imports of toys, down 18 percent; computers, down 9 percent, apparel, down 4.5 percent and footwear, down 3 percent.
One bright spot was auto parts, up 14 percent, and tires, which rose 7 percent. Automakers are still catching up from supply chain disruptions following the Japan earthquake in March, and auto sales are bolstering better-than-expected industrial production and retail sales, Moreno said.
Imports from China, which accounts for nearly half of U.S. containerized imports, fell 6.5 percent to 689,632 TEUs in July. Second-ranked South Korea fell 10.6 percent to 57,027 TEUs. Imports from No. 4 Hong Kong tumbled 16 percent to 41,396 TEUs.
Imports from No. 3 Japan rose 3.6 percent to 46,706 TEUs. Other countries showing increases included India, up 7.4 percent to 33,190 TEUs, and Italy, up 5.9 percent to 29,294 TEUs.