U.S. containerized imports closed 2011 at a point of upward trajectory — up 3% Y-o-Y, with December marking the second month of continuous growth at 2.4%, and the fourth quarter closing 1.9% above the same period last year. But, with growth heavily influenced by the fragile housing market recovery, the outlook for 2012 remains cautious, said PIERS Economist, Mario O. Moreno.
Declining new-home sales were balanced by increases in movement of existing properties, which supported a 5% upswing in U.S. furniture imports. Growth in the manufacturing sector also pushed auto parts imports up 19%, driving December increases in imports from Germany and Mexico. Requests for the import or return of empty containers, for U.S. export and domestic use, rose by 264%.
“The overall economy continues to recover in a stubbornly slow fashion, which makes it highly vulnerable to shocks,” Moreno said. “The auto industry cannot by itself sustain the import trade, but a steady, self-sustained recovery in home sales is decidedly required to support growth going forward.” Moreno’s 2012 container imports forecast remains cautiously at 2.5 to 3.5%, despite fourth quarter data above his earlier predictions.
On a month-over-month basis, overall U.S. containerized imports fell 11.7% in December. A full analysis of the JOC/PIERS findings is available online, or to learn more about PIERS Data visit www.piers.com.