Friday, August 13, 2010

LA Port Traffic: Imports increase, Exports Flat

by Bill McBride on 8/13/2010 05:21:00 PM

This data last month gave the first hint of the sharp increase in the U.S. trade deficit in June.

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.

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 26% compared to July 2009. Inbound traffic is now up 4% vs. two years ago (July '08).

Loaded outbound traffic was up 10% from July 2009. Exports were off almost 4% from May 2010. Unlike imports, exports are still off from 2 years ago (off 17%).

For imports there is usually a significant dip in either February or March, depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year, and then usually imports increase until late summer or early fall as retailers build inventory for the holiday season. So part of this increase in July imports is just the normal seasonal pattern.

Based on this data, it appears the trade deficit with Asia increased again in July. Not only have the pre-crisis global imbalances returned, but the flat line in exports, after declining in June, is concerning (there is no clear seasonal pattern for exports).

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