Tuesday, February 16, 2010

LA Area Port Traffic in January

by Bill McBride on 2/16/2010 09:50:00 PM

Note: this data is not seasonally adjusted. There is a very distinct seasonal pattern for imports, but not for exports. LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

Sometimes port traffic gives us an early hint of changes in the trade deficit. The following graph shows the loaded inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container). Although containers tell us nothing about value, container traffic does give us an idea of the volume of goods being exported and imported.

LA Area Port Traffic Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Loaded inbound traffic was down 0.7% compared to January 2009. (down 4.2% compared to last year using three month average)

Loaded outbound traffic was up 31.8% from January 2009. (+25.5% using three months average) This was an easy YoY comparison for exports, because U.S. exports fell off a cliff in near the end of 2008.

Note: Imports usually peak in the August through October period (as retailers import goods for the holidays) and then decline at the end of the year. Import traffic will decline sharply in February, but that is just the seasonal pattern.

Exports recovered somewhat in the first half of 2009, however export traffic has essentially been flat since last summer. Export growth was one of the key drivers of the economy in 2009, but it now appears - based on traffic - that export growth has stalled.