Loaded container imports will increase 4.6 percent in the first half of 2017, a significant year over year improvement, as retailers balance inventories with demand fueled by buoyant consumer spending, Global Port Tracker forecast Thursday.
The forecast of a 4.6 percent increase in the first six months of the year is about three times as large as the 1.6 percent hike in 2016 over the same period, according to the report, which is produced for the National Retail Federal by consultant Hackett Associates.
“The United States is well placed in 2017 and is likely to outperform most of the rest of the developed economies,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “If the infrastructure investments promised by the new administration come about, we can expect stronger growth than in 2016, but that assumes good relationships with US trading partners and no recourse to trade barriers that would result in a tit for tat response.”
Cargo volumes will increase by a healthy clip yearoveryear in several months at the start of the year, rising 6.6 percent in January, 7.8 percent in March and 8.2 percent in April.
Volumes will decline by 0.6 percent in February, compared to the same month in 2016, but increase by 2.3 percent and 4.3 percent in May and June, the report said.
The NRF forecast is broadly in line with that of Mario O. Moreno, senior economist for IHS Markit, who predicted in January that US containerized imports will expand by 4 to 5 percent in 2017, and reach a new peak of approximately 21.4 million. That was based mainly on expectations of stronger economic growth, with a 2.3 percent increase in GDP in 2017 compared to the 1.6 percent growth in 2016.
Developments in the political arena could lead imports to exceed or fall below the expectations of the Global Port Tracker.
Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said the Global Port Tracker’s forecast was in line with the organization’s expectation of retail sales.
“Retailers try to balance inventories very carefully with demand,” he said. “So, when retailers import more merchandise, that’s a pretty good indicator of what they are expecting to happen with sales.”
An economic forecast for 2017 released Wednesday by the NRF, which represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, said that retail industry sales will grow between 3.7 percent and 4.2 percent over 2016 figures. Those sales, which don’t include automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, took into account job and income growth, along with low debt, that show “the fundamentals are in place,” the report said.
Ecommerce sales, which are included in the overall number, are expected to increase between 8 and 12 percent, the forecast said.
Contact Hugh R. Morley at Hugh.Morley@ihsmarkit.com (mailto:Hugh.Morley@ihsmarkit.com) and follow him on Twitter: @HughRMorley_JOC (https://twitter.com/hughrmorley_joc).