Import volume through major U.S. container ports should be nearly flat in January before rising this spring, the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said in their monthly Global Port Tracker report.
“We’re headed into the slow season for cargo shipments, but forecasts indicate that retailers will be stocking up this spring in anticipation of a moderate recovery as the year progresses,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Cargo volume doesn’t translate directly into sales volume, but when retailers import more it’s because they expect to sell more.”
The 10 U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.25 million 20-foot-equivalent units, a 1.2 percent year-over-year increase, in November, the latest month for which actual statistics are available
Port Tracker’s estimates were little changed from last month’s forecast. December volumes were estimated at 1.21 million TEUs, up 5.9 percent; January at 1.21 million TEUs, up 0.1 percent; February 1.06 million TEUs, down 3.3 percent; March 1.2 million TEUs, up 10.5 percent; April 1.26 million TEUs, up 3.8 percent and May 1.3 million TEUs, up 0.9 percent.
Those estimates are roughly in line with the latest first quarter forecast of Journal of Commerce economist Mario O. Moreno, who predicts U.S. containerized imports through all U.S. ports will rise 1.3 percent in the first quarter and 2.8 percent for the year.
Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the ports of Long Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey, Virginia, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf. Port Tracker estimates those ports handled 14.86 million TEUs last year, up 0.7 percent from a year earlier.
“Continuing uncertainty and the run-up to the elections raise a cloud, as does the pressure on declining incomes as firms hire at lower rates,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which produces the Port Tracker report.. “Nevertheless, the consumer managed to increase savings during most of 2011 and now has a tidy safety net from which to increase consumption as the risk of unemployment recedes. All of these indicators suggest that we are not heading for another recession, but rather for a sustained level of low growth.”