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Thursday, January 14, 2010

LA Area Port Traffic in December

by Calculated Risk on 1/14/2010 06:15:00 PM

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 the 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 2.9% above December 2008. (-9.2% over last three months)

Loaded outbound traffic was 35.9% above December 2008. (+14.5% three months average) This was an easy YoY comparison for exports, because U.S. exports fell off a cliff in November 2008.

It took a little longer for imports to decline sharply because the ships were already underway.

Exports recovered somewhat earlier this year, however export growth has been sluggish since May. Last year (2009) was the 3rd best year for export traffic at LA area ports, behind 2007 and 2008.

For imports, traffic is at about the December 2003 level, and 2009 was 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 at the end of the year.