Econintersect’s analysis of container traffic in June 2011 shows an outright contraction year-over-year in imports – which overshadows a modest 7.4% year-over-year growth in exports.
This is the first contraction of imports after 16 months of year-over-year growth. This is one month of bad data, and, in any event, container counts cannot be used as the sole litmus test that an economic contraction is underway.
On a month-over-month basis, exports increased 2.0%, while exports declined 9.5%. Year-over-year imports were down 4.4%.
So far in June 2011:
- Rail Traffic is up 0.9% YoY, 12% if coal transport is ignored (analysis here)
- Diesel Use for transport vehicles is up 2.2% YoY (analysis here)
The Ports of LA and Long Beach account for much of the container movement into and out of the United States. And these two ports report their data significantly earlier than other USA ports. Most of the manufactured goods move between countries in sea containers (except larger rolling items such as automobiles). This pulse point is an early indicator of the health of the economy.
Exports have been at record levels for six of the last 9 months – although this month and last were not records.
Containers come in many sizes so a uniform method is expressing the volume of containers is TEU – which is the volume of a standard 20 foot long sea container. So a standard 40 foot container would be 2 TEU.
Overall, counting things is showing the economy is still improving, but the sudden drop in imports bears further investigation and must be monitored closely in the coming months.
The surprising numbers for June might have a marginal positive impact on second quarter GDP which adds the value of exports and subtracts the value of imports.
Diesel Use Rises in June 2011, But Suggests 2Q2011 GDP of 1.8% by Steven Hansen
June 2011 Rail Traffic Effected by Collapse of Coal Carloads by Steven Hansen
Trucking Tonnage Down 2.3% in May 2011 by GEI News