Wednesday, June 17, 2015

LA area Port Traffic: Imports Up, Exports Down in May

by Bill McBride on 6/17/2015 12:17:00 PM

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. Perhaps traffic in May is closer to normal now.

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.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image.

On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was up 0.2% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in April.   Outbound traffic was down 0.5% compared to 12 months ending in April.

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).

LA Area Port TrafficUsually 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 up 2% year-over-year in May; exports were down 5% year-over-year.

The labor issues are now resolved, and the distortions from the labor issues are behind us.  This data suggests a slightly larger trade deficit with Asia in May.