Archive for February, 2012

Vive La France! Oscar Isn’t the Only Hype Surrounding French Exports

February 28, 2012

The unofficial theme of the 2012 awards season could have easily been “Vive la France,” with the French-helmed “The Artist” picking up dozens of awards going into Oscar night on Sunday. With 10 nominations, the film picked up five wins, including Best Picture.

But the motion picture phenomenon is not the only thing France is celebrating. After deficit woes and a slumping economy, the country is finally showing bright spots of optimism. Bloomberg News reported on Friday that French consumer confidence climbed for a second month in February after the economy unexpectedly expanded in the fourth quarter, adding to signs of recovery.

A measure of sentiment rose to 82 in February from 81 in January, national statistics office Insee said in Paris today. That matched economists’ expectations for a reading of 82, according to 15 different forecasts.

Although joblessness and potential budget cuts resulting from the approaching French presidential election could put a damper on consumer enthusiasm, this is the second consecutive improvement after a three year low.

France also ended 2011 strong with increased wine and champagne exports. According to the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters, French exports of wine and spirits hit a record €10 billion in 2011, a 10.5% annual increase. The federation said demand had been on the rise worldwide, particularly in Asia. Wine and spirits were the second-largest contributor to France’s trade balance, after the aerospace industry and ahead of the perfume and cosmetics sector.

It remains to be seen how long France’s glimmer of prosperity can last, especially when other countries in the European Union are experiencing far greater economic turmoil. With all of these positive developments in Europe, how are you keeping up? Try a free demo of PIERS’ various products designed to keep you informed with the most current data to help shape your business.


U.S. Containerized Exports Slid 0.2% in Q4 2011

February 23, 2012

As predicted, by PIERS/JOC Economist Mario Moreno, U.S. container exports decelerated in Q4 2011 as European markets declined sharply and the foreign exchange value of the U.S. dollar stabilized. Exports dipped 0.2% year-over-year in Q4 to a total of 3,002,088 TEUs.

U.S. Containerized Exports Year-Over-Year Change


Major losses were mostly seen in fabrics, including raw cotton (-29%) and pet & animal feeds (-12%).  Other losses were seen in synthetic resins (-12%), foam waste & scrap (-12%), and motor vehicles (-7%).  Offsetting part of the losses were two major reefer goods: meat (+36%), and poultry (+28%). Other gains were seen in logs & lumber (+13%), waste paper (+2%), mixed metal scrap (+11%), and soybeans & products (+14%).

On a regional level, exports to Northeast Asia rose by the most, up by 1% Y-o-Y, mostly driven by gains in meat, wood pulp, and logs & lumber. This growth rate, however, makes for a sharp deceleration from Q3 which saw Y-o-Y gains of 12%. Outbound shipments to Africa also showed solid gains, up 24%. On the downside, exports to Northern Europe dropped 6% after a sharp deceleration in Q3. Exports to the Mediterranean declined for a second consecutive quarter to -9% Y-o-Y as the sharp deceleration of manufacturing activity in the region spurred losses in demand for paper & paperboard, PVC resins, and fabrics including raw cotton. As expected Westbound Trans-pacific trade decelerated markedly –– to 0.8% in Q4 from 11.4% in Q3, to a total of 1,707,425 TEUs.

On a country level, exports to top market China gained the most volume led mainly by increases in shipments of logs & lumber, waste paper, and meat. Exports to China rose just 3% (down from a 13% expansion in Q3). Other gains were seen in shipments to Taiwan (+5%), Saudi Arabia (+22%), and Vietnam (+12%). On the downside, exports to Hong Kong and Brazil declined by the most, down 14% each in the quarter.

Mario Moreno, PIERS/JOC Economist, concluded, “Overall containerized exports advanced 6% in 2011 to a total of 11,929,550 TEUs, and reached a new high. Actual fourth quarter figures confirmed what I had suspected and what led me to downgrade my 2012 export forecasts in early December: declining economic activity in Europe will have an adverse impact on U.S. container exports growth. Meanwhile, the dollar will keep the gains against the euro until all European fiscal uncertainties have cleared.”

PIERS is the only source for transaction-level U.S. export data. PIERS staff reporters cover every major U.S. port, collecting and processing over 300,000 export Bills of Lading each month to give our customers a complete view of U.S. trade. To learn more about PIERS export data, visit

President Obama Focuses on Transportation and Manufacturing Growth Initiatives

February 21, 2012

President Obama proposed a $3.8 trillion budget on February 13 for the fiscal year 2013 that aims to slash the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. While the plan envisions growth in areas like health benefit programs, there is also a major focus on transportation and plans to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive.

The transportation section of the budget is actually a 39.4 percent decrease since 2012, but still aims to spend around $50 billion for roads, bridges, transit systems, border crossing railways and runways in the current fiscal year to spur job creation. The key difference is that last year’s budget, while citing a larger allocation, didn’t include proposals to pay for transportation investments and it is predicted the House and Senate will struggle again to find money to pay for these projects.

Reports from last week describe a 15.6% in funding for the Department of Commerce, with $9.2 billion going toward initiatives to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive in the global marketplace. The budget would provide $708 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology Laboratories to increase competitive offerings and $517 million will go to the International Trade Administration to promote U.S. exports in key markets abroad and to improve trade enforcement.

Pointing to an even greater focus on China, Obama also requested $26 million and at least 50 people for a new panel to investigate unfair trade practices by nations including China, according to Bloomberg. The funds would go to establish an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center that would monitor and enforce trade agreements and laws. The president first announced his intention to create the panel, which would include lawyers, researchers, analysts and agents supported by the Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative, in the State of the Union speech.

It remains to be seen how these plans are implemented, but as the year develops, it will be important to keep an eye on any changes in transportation and manufacturing practices both domestically and internationally. PIERS product solutions offer the most comprehensive and customizable intelligence sources to help you predict market changes and formulate plans for your business. Learn more about our product solutions by visiting today.

Double U.S. Exports in 5 years… How do we do that?

February 14, 2012

During his 2010 State of the Union address President Obama boldly proclaimed his plans to double U.S. exports in 5 years, which in turn would create an estimated 2 million American jobs.

The National Export Initiative outlined a plan that would grow U.S. exports to $3.14 trillion annually by 2015, but how exactly does the Obama Administration plan to achieve this?  We’ve reviewed the 62-page document outlined in the Export Promotion Cabinet’s Report to the President on the National Export Initiative to give you a high level overview of what’s being done…

Who’s involved?

The Export Promotion Cabinet consists of:

  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of the Treasury
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • United States Trade Representative
  • Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
  • National Security Advisor
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Administrator of the Small Business Administration
  • President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • Director of the United States Trade and Development Agency

What are the goals?

  1. Improve advocacy and trade promotion efforts on behalf of U.S. exporters
  2. Increase access to export financing, so good opportunities do not fall through due to the inability to finance an export.
  3. Reinforce efforts to remove barriers to trade, so as many markets as possible are open to U.S. products.
  4. Enforce trade rules, to make sure our trade partners live up to their obligations.
  5. Pursue policies at the global level to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth, so the world economy grows and our exports have robust markets.

How does the NEI plan to achieve these goals?

The NEI Executive Order has outlined 8 priorities that they deem as critical in achieving the 5 goals or components of the NEI.

  1. Facilitate exports by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by identifying SMEs which can benefit from exporting and providing them with the tools they need to continually gain access to foreign markets.
  2. Improve the federal government’s core trade promotion programs to create opportunities for U.S. sellers to meet with foreign buyers.
  3. Increasing the number of trade and reverse trade missions
  4. Commercial advocacy
  5. Increasing access to export financing by making more credit available to exporters, increasing the awareness of Government assistance, and streamlining the applications process.
  6. Work with G-20 partners to maintain a healthy global economy that provides ample opportunities for U.S. exports.
  7. Reducing barriers to trade to open new markets to U.S. exporters through free trade agreements and other U.S. trade policy tools vital for obtaining enhanced market access.
  8. Build on the efforts outlined in 1-7 with an enhanced focus on the services sector.

How do we measure how we’re doing?

Since the launch of the National Export Initiative in 2010, U.S. exports have been steadily increasing, but by how much depends largely on what data you’re looking at. Publicly available census data is good for a high-level aggregate view of U.S. exports as a whole, but it lacks the granularity and in-depth view provided by PIERS transactional data.

From January 2010 to December 2011the U.S. Census Bureau shows total exports increasing by 19.7% to $178.7 billion, while over the same period PIERS Containerized Waterborne Data shows exports expanding by only 13.2% to 1.02 million TEUs. For most people the distinction between export value in dollars vs. export volume in TEUs is not something of interest, but to us in the transportation industry this can be an important distinction to make.

PIERS is the only company that gathers detailed U.S. export data at the ports for every shipment. Organizations can use this data to find U.S. exporters, identify growing markets and learn what commodities companies are exporting.

To learn more about the unique advantages of using PIERS U.S. Export Data visit and check out our new interactive graph that shows actual monthly values for PIERS TEU volume and U.S. Census data as well as projected values to reach the National Export Initiative’s goal.

Steady Expansion in Home Sales Market Vital for Sustained Growth, Cautions PIERS Economist

February 9, 2012

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.

U.S. Containerized Imports 2011

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

What Happens to Old Shipping Containers?

February 7, 2012

PIERS recently featured a link on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to an article about Starbucks’ creative use of an old shipping container. The new concept store that opened just south of Seattle features a “Reclamation Drive-Thru” made out of repurposed shipping containers.

This got us wondering – what else can you do with recycled containers? Apparently, container buildings have become more prominent in recent years as green building innovations have emerged. Check out some other ways containers are being used for.

Container Homes
The Daily Green reports that container architecture is taking the world by storm. Recycled freight containers bring efficiency, flexibility and affordability to innovative green buildings, from small vacation cabins to movable cafes, schools and skyscrapers. This apartment building (below) is a prime example.

More Commercial Spaces
This restaurant in Paris below in mixes elegance with an industrial feel. It is a part of an overall campus designed by French architect Jean Nouvel for Seguin Island in western Paris. The recently completed complex includes a giant greenhouse and restaurant called Les Grandes Tables.

Works of Art reported on this unusual CargoGuitar, which is the product of an artistic collaboration from the Kobe Biennale in Japan, which converts a cargo container into an enormous, playable guitar. Artists Marcelo Ertorteguy, Takahiro Fukuda, and Sara Valente created this immersive sound experience that allows visitors to feel and see what it is like inside a giant guitar.

What other examples of green practices in the transportation industry have you seen? Let us know by joining the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!

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