U.S. containerized imports last month fell 1.5 percent from a year earlier, dragged down by lower shipments of home goods, apparel and toys, PIERS data show.
The August data represented the third consecutive monthly drop in year-over-year volume and followed a 5 percent decline in July. Through the first eight months of the year, U.S. containerized imports were up 4.4 percent.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno forecasts total containerized imports will finish the year 2.7 percent above 2010 totals. He cited weak housing and employment markets that have depressed consumer spending.
“The troubles of the U.S. housing market, as reflected by lower home sales and falling home prices, continue to pound on U.S. import cargo,” Moreno said.
Furniture, a housing-sensitive commodity that comprises about one-tenth of containerized imports, fell 5 percent from August 2010. Shipments of sheets, towels and blankets dropped 15 percent. Also declining were kitchenware (7 percent), cooking appliances (5 percent) and lamps (2 percent).
Women’s and infants apparel shipments fell 11 percent. Menswear was down 5 percent. Toy imports fell 6 percent, or nearly 6,000 20-foot equivalent container units. Computers fell 12 percent. Gainers included auto parts, up 23 percent as supply chains continued to recover from the Japan earthquake’s disruption, tired, up 5 percent and footwear, which edged up 4 percent after two months of decline.
In the eastbound trans-Pacific trade, where carriers hope a late peak season will stem losses that Alphaliner forecasts will hit $300 million this year, volume fell 3.8 percent in August after a 5.3 percent drop in July. Total trans-Pacific imports in July and August were down 4.5 percent.
The Global Port Tracker published by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said this month that August imports at the 10 busiest U.S. container ports were expected to be flat with last year at 1.42 million TEUs.
The report said year-over-year growth is expected to resume this month with an increase of 11.8 percent, followed by increases of 9.5 percent in October, 8 percent in November and 4.5 percent in December.
Moreno is less optimistic. He forecasts U.S. containerized imports to rise only 0.7 percent in the third quarter and 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Second-quarter imports were up 4 percent, PIERS data show, matching Moreno’s forecast earlier this year.
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