by Bill McBride on 3/11/2016 04:53:00 PM
Friday, March 11, 2016
Note: There were some large swings in LA area port traffic early last year due to labor issues that were settled in late February. Port traffic slowed in January and February last year, and then surged in March 2015 as the waiting ships were unloaded (the trade deficit increased in March too). This will impact the YoY changes for the first few months of 2016.
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 up 2.6% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in January. Outbound traffic was up 0.8% compared to 12 months ending in January.
The recent downturn in exports is probably due to the slowdown in China and the stronger dollar.
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 and exports were up sharply year-over-year in February - but some of this increase was due to the labor issues last year.