US imports spike in October as retailers stock up for Christ

Time: 2016-10-10 13:41
OCTOBER is expected to be the second-busiest month of the year for US container ports as merchants stock up for Christmas shopping season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
"The holidays are nearly here, and from warehouses to store shelves, retailers are making sure they have the merchandise on hand to meet consumers' demands," said federation vice president Jonathan Gold.
"November and December are the busiest time for holiday shopping, but this is the month for the behind-the-scenes supply chain work that ensures shoppers will find what they want, where they want it, when they want it," he said.
Ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.71 million TEU in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available.
That was up five per cent from July and up 1.7 per cent from August 2015, and has been the busiest month of the year so far.
Volume dipped in September to an estimated 1.64 million TEU but was still up 0.9 per cent from last year. October is forecast at 1.65 million TEU, up six per cent from last year; November at 1.54 million TEU, up 3.9 per cent, and December at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.4 per cent.
The numbers come as NRF is forecasting US$655.8 billion in holiday sales, a 3.6 per cent increase over last year.
Cargo volume does not correlate directly to sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside. But it nonetheless serves as a barometer of retailers' expectations.
Cargo volume for 2016 is expected to total 18.6 million TEU, up 2.1 per cent from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 per cent from 2014. The first half of 2016 totalled nine million TEU, up 1.6 per cent from the same period in 2015.
January 2017 is forecast at 1.53 million TEU, up 2.7 per cent from January 2016, and February is forecast at 1.47 million TEU, down 4.4 per cent from last year.
After a long period of high inventory levels, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett noted that the retail industry inventory-to-sales ratio stood at 1.49 in July, the latest number available from the US Census Bureau. That was down from 1.5 in June and a peak of 1.52 in March.
"The inventory-to-sales ratio, one of the best indicators of where the economy is going, is finally declining," Mr Hackett said. "It's not down by much, but the key is that the sharp rise seen earlier this year appears to have come to an end."
Global Port Tracker covers the US ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami and Houston.
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