Rising shipments of auto parts and recovering demand for furniture pushed U.S. containerized imports up 2.4 percent in December, capping a year in which volumes increased 3 percent.
December’s increase followed a 5.2 percent year-over gain in November. Imports in the fourth quarter increased 1.5 percent year-over-year. Eastbound trans-Pacific imports fell 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
Auto parts imports jumped 19 percent in December from a year earlier as U.S. auto production continues to rebound aftermarket retailers enjoy rising sales. Furniture, which accounts for about 10 percent of containerized imports, rose 5 percent.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario Moreno said furniture imports appeared to benefit from early indications that housing markets are stabilizing. He said housing is key to continued growth in import volumes.
“A pickup in sales of existing homes gives hope for a continuation of a rebounding furniture import trade in 2012, but a sharp decline of brand-new home sales in December reminds us of the fragility of this highly important housing recovery,” he said.
Besides auto parts and furniture, volumes rose in December for beer and ale, up 24 percent year-over-year; miscellaneous metalware, up 17 percent, and bananas, up 15 percent. Toy imports declined 18 percent; sheets, towels and blankets, 15 percent; women’s and infantwear 11 percent, and computers, 10 percent.