NRF: Imports Slow Down at US Container Ports

The rate of import growth at US major retail container ports has begun to slow, but volume should nonetheless hit an all-time high by the end of the summer, the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates informed.

“Year-over-year comparisons are slowing down but that’s largely because we had some unusual numbers early this year and strong volume in the second half of last year,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.

“Despite that, we’re expecting some of the largest import volumes we’ve ever seen, and that’s because retailers are responding to strong consumer demand,” Gold added.

US ports covered by NRF’s Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million TEUs in April, representing an increase of 4.8 percent from March and 11.3 percent from April 2016.

May was estimated at 1.69 million TEU, up 3.9 percent from the same time last year. June is forecast at 1.64 million TEU, up 4.1 percent from last year; July at 1.68 million TEU, up 3.5 percent; August at 1.74 million TEU, up 1.6 percent; September at 1.64 million TEU, up 2.8 percent, and October at 1.69 million TEU, up 1.3 percent.

“The August figure would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the 1.73 million TEU seen in March 2015,” NRF said, added that the May and October numbers would be among the five highest ever recorded. The first half of 2017 is expected to total 9.6 million TEU, up 6.4 percent from the first half of 2016.

The falling rate of growth in imports has been reflected in lower industrial output growth at factories in China, which increased 6.5 percent in April compared with 7.6 percent in March and is expected to drop further when May numbers are released, Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates founder, said

“We can assume that part of the reason for the lower-than-expected increase was due to continuing slow growth in the Western Hemisphere,” Hackett said. “Retail sales continue to hold up but nothing coming out of Washington suggests an impetus to growth.”