NRF: Imports at US Ports to Keep Growing through Summer

Image Courtesy: Port of New York/New Jersey

Imports at US major retail container ports should see steady increases through the summer and into the fall, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.53 million TEU in March. That was up 6.8 percent from February, when many Asian factories closed for Lunar New Year, and up 15.8 percent from unusually low numbers the same month a year ago, when Lunar New Year came a week later than this year.

“In the United States, the economy continues to slowly grow,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, said.

“Gross domestic product was lower than expected in the first quarter but unemployment has dropped to levels not seen since before the Great Recession and, best of all, labor employment has increased dramatically. Our view, therefore, remains unchanged: There is nothing to worry about in the first half of the year, and growth is expected to continue in the second half even if it comes at a slower rate,” Hackett added.

April was estimated at 1.56 million TEU, up 8.3 percent from the same time last year. May is forecast at 1.66 million TEU, up 2.6 percent from last year; June at 1.62 million TEU, up 3.3 percent; July at 1.68 million TEU, up 3.1 percent; August at 1.74 million TEU, up 1.6 percent, and September at 1.65 million TEU, up 3.6 percent.

The first half of 2017 is expected to total 9.5 million TEU, up 5.6 percent from the first half of 2016. Cargo volume for 2016 totaled 18.8 million TEU, up 3.1 percent from 2015, which had grown 5.4 percent from 2014.

NRF has forecast that 2017 retail sales will increase between 3.7 and 4.2 percent over 2016, driven by job and income growth coupled with low debt. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.

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