Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LA Port Traffic in September: Exports increase year-over-year, Imports Down

by Bill McBride on 10/19/2011 06:13:00 PM

The following graphs are for 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 - and possible hints about the trade report for August. LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic is down 0.3% from August, and outbound traffic is up 0.9%.

Inbound traffic is "rolling over" and this might suggest that retailers are cautious about the coming holiday season. However, the National Retail Federation says that imports will be pick up in October:

[T]he [import] statistics were skewed because of high-than-normal numbers in 2010 when fears of shortages in shipping capacity caused many retailers to bring holiday merchandise into the country earlier than usual.
...
“After a summer of trying to compare apples to oranges, retail cargo is back to normal [in October],” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “October is the historic peak of the shipping cycle each year, and retailers are bringing merchandise into the country on their usual schedule and at normal levels again instead of being forced to move cargo early."
The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).

LA Area Port TrafficFor the month of September, loaded inbound traffic was down 4% compared to September 2010, and loaded outbound traffic was up 12% compared to September 2010.

Exports have been increasing, although bouncing around month-to-month. Exports are up from last year, but are still below the peak in 2008.

Imports have been soft - this is the 4th month in a row with a year-over-year decline in imports. However, if the NRF is correct, imports will pick up in October to the highest level this year.