by Bill McBride on 10/15/2015 06:00:00 PM
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Note: There were some large swings in LA area port traffic earlier this year due to labor issues that were settled in late February. 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 0.6% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in August. Outbound traffic was down 0.6% compared to 12 months ending in August.
The recent downturn in exports might be due to the strong dollar and weakness in China.
For imports, August was the all time inbound record, so some of September probably arrived in August (might be related to timing of Labor Day).
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 6% year-over-year in September; exports were down 7% year-over-year.
For the July through September period, imports were up 3.5% year-over-year.
This data suggests a slightly smaller trade deficit with Asia in September than in August.