After 1.9% growth in January, U.S. containerized exports surged in February, rising 9.6% year-over-year and 4% from the previous month. The total February volume - measured in 20-foot equivalent container units - was 1,014,176 TEUs
, led by strong gains in paper and paperboard, building materials and refrigerated foods, and boosted by the depreciation of the U.S. dollar.

In terms of TEUs, paper and paperboard showed the greatest gains, but building materials grew by 280% over January, and frozen fish jumped 157%. Fabrics (including raw cotton) continue to decline, down 15% or 6,375 TEUs.

"The foreign exchange value of the U.S. dollar against a broad basket of currencies was down on January 31 by 2%over the value of Dec. 30, 2011," says Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. "Manufacturing activity in China has been in contraction for four consecutive months, yet U.S. exports of key raw materials such as paper and paperboard and raw cotton increased sharply, suggesting factory output will rebound soon."

Northeast Asia held its position as the top destination for U.S. containerized exports, growing 12% year-over-year to 459,713 TEUs, or 45.3% of total export volume. Exports to the Caribbean climbed an impressive 49% and shipments to North Europe surprised with a rebound of 19% or 21,638 TEUs. Mediterranean volumes, however, fell 18% or 9,236 TEUs.