U.S. containerized imports dropped 2 percent in April year over year to 1,372,851 twenty-foot-equivalent units, as retailers responded to a slowing economy by keeping inventories lean, reported Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. The decline followed a 7.3 percent year-over-year gain in March due, in part, to an early Lunar New Year in China.
“Latest import data reinforces the interpretation of a marked slowdown in the economy, induced by a lack of significant job growth. It is only fair to ask, what will the Fed do next?” Moreno said. His comments reflect his continued expectation that growth in imports will regain speed in the second half of the year, with the help of Federal Reserve intervention. Overall U.S. containerized imports were up 1 percent in the first four months of the year.
Leading the losses in April were footwear and miscellaneous fruits, each down 20 percent; menswear, down 19 percent; women’s and infant wear, down 11 percent; miscellaneous apparel, down 11 percent; auto tires, down 6 percent; and computer-related products, down 8 percent.
Sales of existing homes are paddling along so far this year, which contributed to a slight uptick in furniture imports. In the months ahead, however, softness in the pace of home sales will constrain growth in furniture and home goods imports, Moreno said. Furniture is the single largest containerized import commodity.
Year-over-year U.S. containerized imports from Asia declined 1.6 percent in April, with shipments from China at the forefront, down 3 percent, due to reduced footwear, furniture and toy shipments. Chile followed with a surprising drop of 25 percent, while imports from Hong Kong and Belgium fell 11 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Leading the gains were Japan, up 17 percent, and Vietnam, up 14 percent.