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.
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 www.piers.com/USExports.