Thursday, April 15, 2010

LA Area Port Traffic Increases in March

by Bill McBride on 4/15/2010 09:49:00 PM

Notes: 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 up 2.6% compared to March 2009. (up 9.6% compared to last year using three month average). Inbound traffic was still down 9.2% vs. two years ago (Mar08).

Loaded outbound traffic was up 13.6% from March 2009. (+24.9% using three months average) Just as with imports, exports are still off from 2 years ago (off 8.0%).

Looking at the graph (red line), exports recovered in the first half of 2009, but then export traffic only increased gradually since last summer. Export traffic picked up again in March.

It is harder to tell about imports (blue line) because of the large seasonal swings. Usually there is a large dip in either February or March - depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year - and that didn't happen this year. The lack of a large seasonal dip might suggest a significant increase in imports too.