Major American retail container ports are expected to see a 7.3-percent rise in the number of container imports for the first half of 2017 over the same time period last year, a report shows.
The bright forecast comes despite a weak February when American imports were hurt by the traditional closing of many Asian factories during the Chinese New Year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
"Consumers are spending more, and these import numbers show that retailers expect that to continue for a significant period," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a release. "This is a clear sign that the economy has long-term momentum regardless of month-to-month fluctuations."
Ports covered by the survey handled 1.43 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in February, the latest month for which numbers are available, marking a decrease of 14.3 percent from January and down 7 percent from the same month a year ago. The slump was expected, since February is historically the slowest month of the year for imports, coming after the winter holidays and before retailers stock up for summer, NRF said.
Final figures are not yet compiled for March, but imports for the month are estimated at 1.61 million TEU, up 21.5 percent from unusually low numbers last year, when China's Lunar New Year came a week later than it did this year. April, May, June, July, and August are forecast to show steady increases as well. If those predictions hold true, the first half of 2017 would total 9.6 million TEU, up 7.3 percent from the first half of 2016.
"Our view that imports will continue to be stable despite the uncertainties of the new administration's trade policies remains unchanged," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said in the release. "Despite pre-election promises, there has been little real change in trade policy so far and little change is expected for the greater part of the year."
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach; Oakland, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; New York and New Jersey; Hampton Roads, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Port Everglades and Miami, Fla.; and Houston.