Bloomberg News

U.S. Container Trade Rebounding at Fastest Pace Since May

January 06, 2012

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. imports of containerized goods rose the most in six months in November as a recovering housing market bolstered consumer demand, according to The Journal of Commerce/PIERS, which tracks volumes through ports.

Seaborne imports advanced 5 percent from a year earlier to 1.49 million 20-foot boxes, the biggest jump since May, the Newark, New Jersey-based company said in a statement today. Shipments of furniture, which account for about 10 percent of the total, gained 7 percent.

Existing home sales rose 4 percent to 4.42 million units in November, while purchases of new single-family houses gained for a third consecutive month, according to data from the National Association of Realtors and the Census Bureau. The world’s largest economy expanded 2.75 percent in the fourth quarter, its fastest pace since the three months to June 2010, according to the median of 68 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“We are getting good signals again for the U.S. economy,” Rahul Kapoor, an analyst for investment bank RS Platou Markets AS in Singapore, said by phone today. “We are seeing the U.S. housing market improve with a subsequent increase in demand for household goods and furnishings, so it’s a definite positive for containerized imports.”

Hauling Costs

The cost of hauling goods in 40-foot equivalent boxes to the U.S. from China jumped 19 percent to $1,692 a box in the last week of December, the largest advance since at least June 2010, according to data from Clarkson Securities Ltd., a unit of the world’s largest shipbroker.

Imports from the Asian country in November rose for the first time in eight months, led by demand for cooking and heating appliances, lamps and kitchenware, PIERS said.

The acceleration means greater demand for vessel owners including A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S and Neptune Orient Lines Ltd.

“A healthy housing market is key to the revival of U.S. containerized imports growth,” Mario Moreno, a PIERS economist, wrote in the statement. “The question is: are we seeing a self- sustained recovery in home sales? We are not there yet, but getting closer.”

--Editors: Stuart Wallace, John Deane

To contact the reporters on this story: Alaric Nightingale in London at anightingal1@bloomberg.net; Isaac Arnsdorf in London at iarnsdorf@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net


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