Port of Long Beach event points to strong 2012 Peak Season but global economic concerns linger

There is a growing sense of optimism for the upcoming peak season. This could be viewed with skeptical eyes by many freight industry transportation stakeholders, given that a real peak has truly failed to materialize in a meaningful way for at least four years running, if not more.

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With so much attention on the economy, we are all paying close attention to various numbers and trends to let us know what is happening.

What are these numbers? They are the usual suspects: retail sales, jobs, energy prices, and industrial production to name a few. And in recent months, especially, there clearly have been some really good signs, but, of course, we are fully aware there is a long way to go before we can declare things are truly strong.

One very encouraging sign of better things to come came from the Port of Long Beach’s “Annual Peak Season Forecast” last week.

What was encouraging was that speakers at this event said that there is a growing sense of optimism for the upcoming peak season. This could be viewed with skeptical eyes by many freight industry transportation stakeholders, given that a real peak has truly failed to materialize in a meaningful way for at least four years running, if not more.

At the POLB event, global shippers stated that they anticipate a busier 2012 peak season, with Southern California ports well prepared with facilities, labor force, and customer service ready to handle increased volumes.

And Walter Kemmsies, Ph.D, chief economist for Moffat & Nichol, said that exports are currently supporting the U.S. economy through overseas purchases of U.S. autos, construction equipment, and agricultural products.

But the real problem, it seems, may have more to do with what is happening abroad than what is happening here. (Who would have thought that would be the case, say, back in the summer of 2009?)

While economic activity in China remains decent, its GDP figures have seen some declines (while still posting a very impressive Q4 GDP number of 8.9 percent). More problematic is the situation in Europe, with many countries still mired in financial fiscal straits that are seeing limited or no growth with federal austerity measures.

Indicative of this was a report from Reuters today that indicated unemployment in Euro Zone countries reached its highest level in 15 years in February, with the unemployment rate there now at 10.8 percent and expected to be at 11 percent by the end of the year. This number is slightly ahead of the unemployment rate in the European Union which is currently at 10.2 percent.

Another problem area, in terms of the economy, is Japan. A separate Reuters report stated that a Bank of Japan index showed that Japanese business sentiment did not materialize as expected in the first quarter and is expected to be “muted” in the coming months. It added that big manufacturers expect conditions to improve only slightly over the next three months.


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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