Solid, Seasonal Growth in August
In August, the number of waterborne shipments coming through U.S. ports grew at a solid rate. Specifically, we saw a 4% month-over-month increase. This is consistent with last year’s month-over-month increase. And it compares favorably with month-over-month changes from years past: 3% in 2009, flat in 2008, and down 2% in 2007.
In terms of absolute level of trade activity, we’re continuing to run about 1% behind where we were this time last year. Pretty good news, particularly given the various pieces of economic bad news that are circulating.
How do we make sense of this, given all the doom and gloom from analysts? Well, the most important takeaway is that, amazingly, retailers have bet on a reasonably healthy holiday season. This is good news, to be sure. However, if the holiday season is not as healthy as expected, we’re going to be faced with an ugly first half of 2012, as retailers — and their supply chain partners — will be coping with way too much inventory.
Expect seasonal declines in the months ahead, and buckle your seatbelts for the holiday season. It will tell us a lot about what we can expect in the first half of 2012.
Reprinted with permission of Cargo Business News. This column appeared in Volume 89, issue no. 12 of the magazine.