Weak volumes to Europe and the Mediterranean caused U.S. containerized exports to dip 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, providing a dull finish to a year in which exports hit a record 11.9 million 20-foot equivalent units, according to PIERS data.
The fourth quarter decline to 3 million TEUs matched the forecast of Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno. He said the dollar stabilized while European demand weakened amid the continent’s economic troubles. Moreno’s most recent forecast in December calls for containerized exports to rise 3.8 percent this year.
Fourth quarter exports to Northern Europe fell 6 percent to 318,118 TEUs. Shipments to Mediterranean countries tumbled 9 percent to 136,599 TEUs. Smaller declines were recorded to Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the east coast of South America and the Middle East.
Exports to China and other Northeast Asia nations rose 1 percent to 1.3 million TEUs, driven by growth in meat, wood pulp, and logs and lumber shipments. This increase followed a 12 percent year-over-year increase in the third quarter. Exports to China rose 3 percent, compared with 13 percent in the third quarter.
Westbound trans-Pacific trade declined 0.8 percent to 1.7 million TEUs, following an 11.4 percent increase in the third quarter.
Commodities showing fourth quarter declines included cotton, down 29 percent or 25,100 TEUs and animal feeds, down 12 percent or 20,571 TEUs. Also declining were synthetic resins, down 12 percent; foam waste and scrap, down 12 percent, and motor vehicles, down 7 percent.
The losses were partly offset by shipments two major refrigerated commodities. Meat exports rose 36 percent or 15,341 TEUs and poultry shipments increased 28 percent or 11,175 TEUs. Gains also were posted in logs and lumber, up 13 percent; mixed metal scrap, 11 percent; soybeans and soybean products, 14 percent; and wastepaper, up 2 percent.