U.S. containerized imports in February fell for the first time in four months on a year-over-year basis, sliding 5.8% to 1,193,157 TEUs as demand for furniture, toys and footwear declined on early closing of factories in China and soft consumer spending. The month-to-month drop was even more dramatic, as February imports plunged 18.6% from January.
While the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, and related factory closings, made accurate Y-o-Y comparisons difficult, the 18.6% tumble from January suggests weakening volume, said Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce / PIERS. Prior to the slide, furniture, the largest import commodity group, had been leading an import surge.
February imports from Asia tumbled 10% Y-o-Y, after a 3% increase in January. Moreno noted that his first quarter forecast of 1% growth in trade from Asia might be a bit optimistic.
“Overall demand for imported home goods remains relatively modest as the pace of home sales recovers at a stubbornly slow manner,” Moreno said. “Meanwhile, consumer spending rose faster than incomes in February, mainly at the expense of savings, which raises a concern for the sustainability of spending in the long run.”