Fleet Management

January Container Import Volumes Up 4.1% Year-Over-Year

March 19, 2012

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Steady sales growth in both automobiles and existing homes during the past few months drove January U.S. container import volumes up 4.1% from January 2011 to 1,475,608 million twenty-foot-equivalent units.
This marks the third consecutive month of year-over-year imports increase, and a month-over-month climb of 11%.

Expanding the commodity's continuous growth streak of more than two years, January imports of auto parts rose 19% to 56,662 TEUs. Home sales spurred a third straight month of increases in furniture, up 6% to 167,294 TEUs. The activity in the housing market bodes well for the short-term outlook of these volumes, the largest import commodity group, says Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS.

"The overall employment market is modestly improving, but real consumer spending has remained flat in the last 3 months through January," says Moreno. "Higher gasoline prices are a major risk to the import trade as lower disposable income will adversely affect spending on discretionary goods such as apparel, computers, and home goods," Moreno cautioned, noting a 10% drop in menswear in January, though inbound shipments of footwear rose by 4% after several months of decline.

Imports from Asia continued to rise, up 2.9% in January, with shipments from China climbing the most, up 2% to 709,410 TEUs. Moreno forecasts a 2.5% increase in U.S. imports from Asia throughout 2012. Also of note, imports from Mexico grew 68% for this period.

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