Port Tracker report paints an optimistic picture for import cargo in coming months
June 13, 2012
Staying in tune with its forecast a month ago, sustained growth is expected for import cargo volume in the coming months, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
The report is calling for June import cargo volume to increase 4.8 percent annually, with further annual gains in subsequent months into the holiday shipping cycle. The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah.
Port Tracker indicated that the first half of 2012 is expected to total 7.3 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which would represent a 2 percent annual gain. The 2011 total was 14.8 million TEU, which was up 0.4 percent over 14.75 million TEU in 2010. Volume in 2010 was up 16 percent compared to a dismal 2009. The 12.7 million TEU shipped in 2009 was the lowest annual tally since 2003. According to NRF estimates, retail sales are expected to increase by 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion.
“Retail sales have seen 22 straight months of year-over-year sales increases, and these import projections suggest retailers should see growth into the two-year mark and beyond,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a statement. “Cargo numbers don’t correlate directly into sales numbers, but they are an indicator of how much retailers think they can sell.”
In April, the most recent month for which data is available, U.S. ports featured in the report handled 1.23 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU), which is up 3.9 percent over March and up 1.5 percent over April 2011.
Port Tracker expects May to come in at 1.29 million TEU for a 0.5 percent annual gain, with June expected to hit 1.31 million TEU, which would be up 4.8 percent. June is expected to be up 2.5 percent at 1.36 million TEU, and August is projected to see a 7.3 percent gain at 1.42 million TEU. September and October are expected to see 9 percent and 19.2 percent gains at 1.45 million TEU and 1.53 million TEU, respectively.
In the report, Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates observed that consumer demand for durables has been weak for quite some time and dropped further in May, yet at the same time consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2007, which he quipped makes things confusing for the average consumer.
“Consumer durables are usually tied to new housing starts or when people move,” Hackett told LM in an interview. “That is one of the reasons durables are down as housing is only beginning to just pick up. In terms of consumer confidence, it is not always directly linked to consumption. It is more of an indication of how a consumer feels and sees things. At the moment, there is a fairly high level of confidence but purchases are still constrained. There is a little bit of confusion, but with the consumer feeling good it is a leading indicator that points to consumers spending more going forward.”
Hackett noted that the overall economic fundamentals in the U.S. are strong, with steady retail sales growth, strong supply chain management, and a rebound in consumer confidence, coupled with industrial production continuing to grow at a rate that has exceeded economists’ expectations.
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