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12/13/2016



Rail News: Intermodal

NRF: Retail imports up for holiday season


U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.67 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEU) in October, a 4.6 percent increase from September and a 7.4 percent increase from October 2015, according to the National Retail Federal (NRF).

October is the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. November is estimated to come in at 1.53 million TEU, up 3.6 percent from last year, and December is forecast at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.2 percent, according to an NRF press release issued late last week.

"There's still shopping to be done, and retailers are making sure the gifts that need to be under a tree are waiting on the shelves," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Imports are up a healthy amount over this time last year, and that's a good sign for holiday sales and the economy."

The numbers come as NRF is forecasting $655.8 billion in holiday sales, a 3.6 percent increase over last year. Cargo volume does not correlate directly to sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, NRF officials said.

Cargo volume for 2016 is expected to total 18.6 million TEU, up 2 percent from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from 2014. The first half of 2016 totaled 9 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from the same period in 2015.

With cargo growth at covered U.S. ports for the year coming in at only 2 percent, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said a trend of imports exceeding growth of gross domestic product appears to have ended.

"This is a new phenomenon," Hackett said. "It was not long ago when industry leaders were doing their forecasts based on trade growth outpacing GDP by a ratio of more than 2-to-1. Those days are gone."



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