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Imports into US ports up 7% after holiday season

today Jan 8, 2018
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Imports into major US ports are estimated to have increased 7% over 2017 with holiday imports estimated at more than double 2016 levels, indicating high consumer confidence and an increase in retail spending.

Higher levels of imports are an indicator of increased consumer confidence and retail spending - Port of Los Angeles

Currently the most recent complete month data is available for November 2017. That month showed 1.74 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) imported, a 5.8% increase over 2016, with full-year imports predicted at a 7% increase over the prior year. 

While December data has not been completely analyzed yet, it is estimated to be 1.6 million TEU, up 2.6% over 2016, while January is forecast to have a 0.2% increase in imports. February and March are also expected to show growth, although actual data is skewed because of changes in factory production in Asia due to Lunar New Year closures.

The data comes from the monthly issue of the Global Port Tracker which is produced by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, a maritime consulting agency.

“Retail had a strong year fueled by growing wages, higher employment and a boost in consumer confidence,” stated NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold, before going on to say that 2018 is expected to show continued growth.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said, “On a percentage basis, 2017 was one of the strongest increases we’ve seen since the end of the Great Recession." He noted that "The rate is expected to slow down some, but with 2017’s performance and continuing high consumer confidence, our models show continued growth in the coming year.”

The Global Port Tracker collects data from the West Coast ports of LA/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma. On the East Coast it looks at New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami.

Census Bureau year-end retail numbers will not be released until Friday, however the NRF estimates that 2017 retail sales grew between 3.2 and 3.8 percent over 2016. It also forecast that holiday sales grew between 3.6 and 4 percent.

NRF notes that cargo volume does not directly correlate to sales because it is based on container volume, not actual value of the cargo inside. It does, however, offer retailers an approximative measure for their business.

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