U.S. retail container forecast to level off
Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports to level off this month at about the same numbers as last year after nearly 18 months of year-over-year gains, according the monthly Global Port Tracker forecasts.
Traffic is expected to remain steady into mid-summer before resuming gains, said the report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
'After nearly a year and a half of volume increases, it's not surprising to see some leveling off,' said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. 'Retailers are being cautious with how much merchandise they import due to economic pressures such as higher commodity prices, but overall consumer demand remains strong.'
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.08 million TEUs in March, a gain of only 0.3 percent over March 2010. While the increase was small, it was the 16th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement.
April was estimated at 1.18 million TEUs, 4 percent more than April 2010, but May is forecast at 1.26 million TEUs, a decline of 0.6 percent from May 2010. June is forecast at 1.31 million TEUs, down 0.1 percent from a year ago, and July is forecast at 1.38 million TEUs, a 0.4 percent decline. Year-over-year increases are expected to resume in August, forecast at 1.46 million TEUs, up 2 percent from last year, and in September, forecast at 1.49 million TEUs, up 11 percent.
'Consumers are being cautious about their expenditures in light of the higher gasoline costs and rising inflation combined with mixed signals from the economic data,' Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. 'Nevertheless, we expect the second half of the year to be more robust than the first half.'
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and the Gulf Coast port of Houston.