Panjiva data shows decline in U.S. bound shipments from November to December

The 7 percent sequential decline comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent gain from October to November

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Despite some recent glimpses of economic improvement in recent weeks, global trade activity showed a typical seasonal decline in December, according to data from Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers.

United States-bound waterborne shipments from November’s 1,029,789 to December’s 956,879 were down 7 percent and up on an annual basis for the same period—with November 2010 at 1,013,564 and December 2010 at 868,365. From November 2010 to December 2010, shipments were down 14 percent compared to 7 percent a year later.

This 7 percent sequential decline comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent gain from October to November, with shipments showing sequential increases 4 of the past 9 months. In 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 November to December shipments were down 9 percent, up 3 percent, down 5 percent, and down 1 percent respectively, said Panjiva.

The number of manufacturers shipping to the U.S. from November’s 146,843 to December’s 140,656 was down 4 percent. For the same period in 2010, the number of manufacturers shipping to the U.S. was down 9 percent.

While the numbers were down, Panjiva CEO Josh Green explained it is a function of seasonality to a large degree, adding that it was not out of the range of what was expected.

“December into January and February typically sees significant declines from a seasonal standpoint,” said Green. “The only exception came at the end of 2009, when we saw an increase [in shipments] from November to December.”

But the 7 percent decline in shipments is half of what it was the previous year, which makes it good news, said Green.

And shipments on an absolute level providing an encouraging sign, too, with December 2011 shipments up 10 percent compared to December 2010.

“For most of 2011, we were tracking right around where we were in 2010,” noted Green. “We then reached the end of the year and saw shipments up 10 percent so that is really quite good. What this reflects is relatively strong ordering for inventories that were needed for the first half of 2012, and these orders were placed just before the holiday season and reflected a degree of optimism among purchasing executives about what the first half of 2012 might look like.”

With recent jobs numbers showing some strength, Green said that could serve as a catalyst to give sourcing executives confidence when placing orders and is an important indicator to keep an eye on.

But he noted that the tenuous economic situation in Europe requires even more attention.

“If Europe takes a turn for the worse from here, then the trajectory of trade becomes completely unpredictable,” said Green. “Uncertainty is a killer. You want to be able to place orders in an environment in which there is reasonable visibility as to what the future holds and now that is virtually impossible in Europe.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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