According to Mario Moreno, PIERS/Journal of Commerce economist, U.S. exports continued their rise in August for the third consecutive month, bolstered by a debased dollar and rising incomes in key markets. PIERS data shows overall U.S. containerized exports grew 5.4% in August 2011 over August 2010 following a 5% advance in the previous month. Gains were led by an impressive 32% boost in scrap metals and a 119% jump in soybeans shipments.
The notable jump in soybeans is likely tied to declining container freight rates which prompts U.S. agricultural exporters to switch from bulk to container transportation. Also, showing gains were grains & flour products (+54%), poultry (+40%), and logs and lumber (+17%). On the downside, fabrics including raw cotton remained on its downward trend, losing 52% of its outbound volume. A severe drought in West Texas has adversely disrupted overall cotton production. Pet and animal feed exports dropped by just 4% in the month, following a 21% tumble in July.
On a regional level, exports to Northeast Asia led the gains, rising 9%, followed by Southeast Asia, up 12%. On the downside, exports to the Caribbean saw volume losses again, falling 5%. Exports to the Mediterranean declined 3%.
Looking at the data by individual countries, China led the gains driven by a strengthening demand for logs and lumber (+38%) and wood pulp (+62%). Wastepaper shipments to China also added to the gains but were small (+4%) compared to July’s 21% advance. Total exports to top market China surged 7%, while solid gains were also seen in Taiwan (+23%) and Korea (+12%).
Year to date, through August, overall U.S. containerized exports were up 8%. On a month to month basis, exports rose 1.2% in August over July. For the July-August period, total U.S. exports were up 5.2% over July-August 2010, in line with Moreno’s previous forecast for Q3:2011 of 6.3%. Moreno’s recent updated forecasts point to a 6% growth for full year 2011.