Major container ports in the United States handled 1.43 million TEUs in February 2017, down 7 percent from the previous year, according to the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
Import volumes at major U.S. container ports fell 7 percent to 1.43 million TEUs in February 2017, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
Import volumes at major container ports in the United States are expected to continue their recent growth throughout the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same period a year ago thanks to an improving national economy, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
The rosy outlook from NRF and Hackett Associates comes as major container ports in the U.S. reported handling 1.43 million TEUs in February 2017, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, down 14.3 percent from January and 7 percent from the previous February.
NRF noted February is historically the slowest month of the year for cargo imports, coming just after the winter holiday season, before retailers begin to stock up on summer merchandise, and during Lunar New Year, when many Asian factories shut down for a week or more.
The report forecasts March volumes at 1.61 million TEUs, a 21.5 percent from “unusually low” numbers last year, when Lunar New Year came a week later than in 2017; April at 1.59 million TEUs, up 10.3 percent; May at 1.68 million TEUs, up 3.5 percent; June at 1.66 million TEUs, up 5.3 percent; July at 1.71 million TEUs, up 5.1 percent; and August at 1.74 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from last year.
Should those projections prove accurate, cargo volumes will grow 7.3 percent year-over-year for first half 2017 to 9.6 million TEUs, more than four times the 1.6 percent growth seen in the first half of 2016. NRF said import volumes grew 3.1 percent year-over-year to 18.8 million TEUs for the full year in 2016.
NRF previously forecast 2017 retail sales – excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – to increase between 3.7 and 4.2 percent over 2016 thanks to job and income growth and low debt. Although cargo volumes do not correlate directly to sales, volumes do serve as a barometer of retailers’ expectations, NRF said.
“Consumers are spending more, and these import numbers show that retailers expect that to continue for a significant period,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “This is a clear sign that the economy has long-term momentum regardless of month-to-month fluctuations. Whether it’s merchandise for store shelves or parts for U.S. factories, imports play a vital role in American prosperity.”
“Our view that imports will continue to be stable despite the uncertainties of the new administration’s trade policies remains unchanged,” added Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett. “Despite pre-election promises, there has been little real change in trade policy so far and little change is expected for the greater part of the year.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced by Hackett Associates for the NRF, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston.