by Bill McBride on 5/18/2015 02:42:00 PM
Monday, May 18, 2015
Note: LA area ports were impacted by labor negotiations that were settled on February 21st. Port traffic surged in March as the waiting ships were unloaded (the trade deficit increased in March too), and port traffic declined in April.
Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.
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).
To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.
Click on graph for larger image.
On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was down 0.2% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in March. Outbound traffic was down 1.1% compared to 12 months ending in March.
Inbound traffic had been increasing, and outbound traffic had been moving down recently. The recent downturn in exports might be due to the strong dollar and weakness in China.
The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).
Usually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March (depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year).
Imports were down 2% year-over-year in April; exports were down 11% year-over-year.
The labor issues are now resolved - the ships have disappeared from the outer harbor - and the distortions from the labor issues are behind us. This data suggests a smaller trade deficit in April.