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Friday, December 18, 2009

LA Area Port Traffic in November

by Calculated Risk on 12/18/2009 09:18:00 AM

Note: this is not seasonally adjusted. There is a very distinct seasonal pattern for imports, but not for exports. LA area ports handle about 40% of nation's container port traffic.

Sometimes port traffic gives us an early hint of changes in the trade deficit. 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 13.1% below November 2008. (-15.1% over last three months)

Loaded outbound traffic was 11.4% above November 2008. (+0.8% three months average)

U.S. exports fell off a cliff in November 2008, but it took a little longer for imports to decline sharply (because the ships were already underway).

There was a clear recovery in U.S. exports earlier this year; however exports have been mostly flat since May. Still this year will be the 3rd best year for export traffic at LA area ports, behind 2007 and 2008.

For imports, traffic is below the November 2003 level, and 2009 will be the weakest year for import traffic since 2002.

Note: Imports usually peak in the August through October period (as retailers import goods for the holidays) and then decline in November.

The lack of further export growth to Asia is definitely discouraging.