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Container traffic to grow 9% in November

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 9% in November, compared with the same month a year ago, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers know shoppers still have the economy in mind, so they are being very mindful with inventory levels this year,” said Jonathan Gold, VP supply chain and customs policy for NRF. “The cargo numbers show that retailers are expecting a much better holiday season than they have seen over the past two years, but the industry is still being cautious.”

November is forecast at 1.19 million TEU, a 9% increase from last year. (One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.) December is expected at 1.1 million TEU, up 1%. January 2011 is forecast at 1.08 million TEU, up 7% from 2010. But February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.06 million TEU, down 5% from last year, and March is forecast at 1.04 million TEU, down 10%

Numbers beyond March have not yet been calculated, but a solid recovery is expected in the second and third quarters of 2011 after the usual winter slowdown.

The first half of 2010 totaled 6.9 million TEU, up 17% from the same period last year. The full year is forecast at 14.6 million TEU, which would be up 15% from the 12.7 million TEU seen in 2009, which was the lowest since the 12.5 million TEU reported in 2003. The 2010 number remains below the 15.2 million TEU seen in 2008 and the peak of 16.5 million TEU seen in 2007.

The U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker are: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

“Despite the economic uncertainty and the underlying weakness of the economy, we continue not to project a double-dip recession,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Underlying fundamentals remain healthy. Inventory-to-sale ratios, while going up marginally, are still at a 10-year low, suggesting extremely tight supply chain management. Consumer confidence has not changed much over the last four months, but consumer expenditures have picked up. The fear of unemployment and financial exposure may be waning.”


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