Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Import Slowdown: Los Angeles Area Ports

by Bill McBride on 4/08/2008 12:45:00 PM

Loaded Containers Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the loaded containers per month - inbound and outbound - for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach combined.

Imports have been surging for years (not exactly new news), but have slowed recently. For the last two month, imports averaged a decrease of 8.8% year-over-year.

Recently exports have picked up (because of the weak dollar), and for the last two months imports have increased an average of 24.3% year-over-year.

Although this is just two Los Angeles area ports, this fits with the declining trade deficit (see 2nd graph). For export businesses in the U.S. these are good times - and a big part of the reason the U.S. has seen less manufacturing employment weakness than in earlier recessions.

Of course this is having a negative impact on Asian exporting companies.

Trade Deficit PetroleumHere is a graph of the trade deficit (January is the most recent data).

The red line is the trade deficit excluding petroleum products. (Blue is the total deficit, and black is the petroleum deficit).

The ex-petroleum deficit is falling fairly rapidly, almost entirely because of weak imports (export growth is still strong).

And from the AP: Idle cars signal a downturn

This brings up several important topics: What will happen in China as their export economy slows? Just look at the dramatic decline in the Shanghai index. What will happen to petroleum prices as the global economy slows? Will the U.S. import inflation from China and Asia as they raise prices? And I'm sure there are more issues too.

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