Global Port Tracker expects imports to increase through fall

WASHINGTON — Imports at major U.S. retail container ports should see steady increases throughout the summer into the fall, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“In the United States, the economy continues to slowly grow,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said in a release. “Gross domestic product was lower than expected in the first quarter, but unemployment has dropped to levels not seen since before the Great Recession and, best of all, labor employment has increased dramatically. Our view, therefore, remains unchanged: There is nothing to worry about in the first half of the year, and growth is expected to continue in the second half even if it comes at a slower rate.”

Ports covered by the report handled 1.53 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, according to the release. That was up 6.8% from February and up 15.8% from the same month a year ago. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

April was estimated at 1.56 million TEU, up 8.3% from the same time last year. May is forecast at 1.66 million TEU; June at 1.62 million TEU; July at 1.68 million TEU; August at 1.74 million TEU; and September at 1.65 million TEU. All estimates are increases from the same periods in 2016.

The first half of 2017 is expected to total 9.5 million TEU, up 5.6% from the first half of 2016. Cargo volume for 2016 totaled 18.8 million TEU, up 3.1% from 2015, which had grown 5.4% from 2014.

NRF has forecast that 2017 retail sales — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — will increase between 3.7% and 4.2% over 2016, driven by job and income growth coupled with low debt. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations, the release said.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for retail trade association NRF by consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Furniture Today Staff | Staff Editors

Furniture Today covers all the news concerning manufacturers, retailers and suppliers in the home furnishings sector.

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