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The Journal of Commerce and PIERS, a comprehensive database of U.S. waterborne trade activity, have revised their joint forecast for containerized imports into the United States in 2012 downward to 2.8% in year-over-year growth. Their earlier forecast was a gain of 4.7%.
Economist Mario Moreno said the downward revision was the result of the slow U.S. economic recovery, particularly the poor employment market and persistent depressed figures in the housing market.
"Even with recent improvements in the housing market, this industry will remain depressed for a couple of more years, as there is simply too much excess capacity to support a recovery," Moreno said. "The U.S. economy will continue growing but at a stubbornly slow pace of 1.3% in real terms in 2012."
Moreno noted the U.S. economy showed greater activity during the third quarter than many economists had expected after a sharp slowdown in the first half of the year. But high oil prices, pending foreclosures, a "high probability" that payroll tax cuts will not be renewed, slow job creation and the seasonality of recent retail spikes will challenge the sustainability of this growth.
Moreno's previous predictions had included a 5.9% increase for eastbound trans-Pacific trade, which has been downgraded to 2.7%. On a quarterly basis, overall imports are forecast to stay flat in the fourth quarter of 2011 in year-over-year comparisons, and rise by just 1.3% in the first quarter of 2012.