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Increase in container imports tied to housing recovery

A 5% rise in containerized import volume last November can be credited to the turnaround in home sales, according to a report in the Journal of Commerce/PIERS. The year-over-year increase to 1.48 million 20-foot equivalent units included a 7% gain in shipments of furniture, a top import commodity.

Pending home sales continued to gain in November and reached the highest level in 19 months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"A healthy housing market is key to the revival of U.S. containerized imports growth, as many of the goods consumers purchase to furnish a home are imported," said Mario Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. He pointed to additional expansion in November of imported cooking and heat appliances, lamps and parts, and kitchenware. Growth in these other commodities contributed to the increase in imports from China -- up 4.1% in November 2011 in year-over-year comparisons -- the country's first rise in eight months.

"The question is, ‘Are we seeing a self-sustained recovery in home sales?’ " Moreno said. "This will depend very much on how many jobs the economy can generate every month. Over the last 12 months through November, the economy generated an average of 132,000 jobs per month. We are not there yet, but getting closer."