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US imports to rise 3.3pc in May, then flatten through summer: Port Tracker

16 May 2014Shipping News

US IMPORT container growth through American ports is expected to increase 3.3 per cent in May, but then slow to a standstill by September, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

"The weak cargo increases expected over the next few months are consistent with other signs that the economy is slowly improving but show that retailers remain cautious, especially when it comes to stocking their inventories," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold. 

"We're looking at barely one per cent of year-on-year growth through the early summer, and August and September are expected to be basically flat even though they're supposed to be two of the busiest months of the years," he said.

US ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.14 million TEU in March, the latest month for actual results are available. That was down 10.9 per cent from February and 8.6 per cent from March 2012. 

April was estimated at 1.29 million TEU, down 1.4 per cent from a year ago. May is forecast at 1.42 million TEU, up 3.3 per cent from last year; June at 1.4 million TEU, up 1.4 per cent; July at 1.43 million TEU, also up 1.4 per cent; August at 1.43 million TEU, up 0.1 per cent, and September at 1.41 million TEU, unchanged from last year. 

The first six months of 2013 are expected to total 7.8 million TEU, up two per cent from the first half of 2012. The total for 2012 was 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9 per cent from 2011.

"Despite the Fed pumping liquidity into the market, consumer confidence still has not turned the corner," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. "We need to see the economy strengthen in the coming quarters before we can begin to see the threat of a further economic downturn dissipating. Trade will remain at low growth levels until we reach this stage."

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the US ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the west coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the east coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.