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            november 15, 2019

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CIBE 2019

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US imports remain strong as shippers try to beat tariff bite


Imports at big US container ports are expected to remain at near-record levels this month despite a new round of tariffs that took effect in September, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
"Retailers are continuing to import merchandise in order to meet consumer demand even though tariffs are now in place on roughly half the goods imported from China and the trade war is still escalating," said NRF president Jonathan Gold.
"Retailers are doing their best to mitigate the impact on their customers, but they are not able to quickly or easily change their sourcing. That means these tariffs will eventually mean higher prices for American consumers," he said.
Said Ben Hackett of Hackett Associates: "The third round of tariffs is now in place, an increase in the level of tariffs is coming, and further tariffs have been threatened. Consumer prices will no doubt start to rise."
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.89 million TEU in August, down 0.6 per cent from July but up 3.4 per cent year on year.
September was estimated at 1.84 million TEU, up 2.7 per cent year-over-year. October is forecast at 1.87 million TEU, up 4.3 per cent; November at 1.8 million TEU, up 2.3 per cent; and December at 1.79 million TEU, up four per cent. January is forecast at 1.77 million TEU, up 0.7 per cent over January of this year, and February is forecast at 1.63 million TEU, down 3.5 per cent year-over-year.
Until this year, the record for the number of containers imported during a single month was 1.83 million TEU, set in August 2017. That record was broken in June, when 1.85 million TEU were imported, and again in July, with 1.9 million TEU. October will be the fifth month in a row to top last year's peak, according to Hackett Associates.
While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the imports mirror this year's strong retail sales. NRF forecast last week that 2018 holiday season retail sales - excluding automobiles, restaurants and gas stations - will increase between 4.3 per cent and 4.8 per cent over last year. Retail sales for all of 2018 are forecast to be up at least 4.5 per cent over 2017.
The first half of 2018 totalled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1 per cent over the first half of 2017, according to the Global Port Tracker. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4 per cent over last year's record 20.5 million TEU.

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