Sputtering Ahead!

Late last month this was the report relayed to us by SHIPPING NEWS:

“US West Coast July box volume off 3pc, but outlook stays positive …

“More bullish monthly performance in exports is expected, said the PMA, a flow that is to grow in the autumn and winter. Overall, year-to-date containerized imports are up two per cent and exports nine per cent compared to the same period last year, contributing to a total of four per cent increase in container volume compared to the first seven months of 2010.” –

But early this month, Bloomberg News gave us a different slant on things:

“Port of Long Beach’s Director Sees Another Down Month in ‘Unsettled’ Time”, the report began.

“Economic forecasters predicting a Christmas sales bump in the U.S. may be disappointed, according to early traffic reports from the nation’s second-busiest port.

“Inbound container cargo at California’s Port of Long Beach probably fell again in August after a 1.2 percent drop in July, said Richard Steinke, executive director of the facility.

“Retailers are still holding back on orders because ‘there’s still consumer skepticism,’ Steinke said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg News’s Los Angeles office. ‘Unsettled is probably a good word to describe what’s going on now.’

“A slowdown in shipping demand this year forced container lines including Moeller Maersk A/S, the world’s largest, to delay the introduction of peak-season surcharges on Asia-U.S. routes as they struggled to find enough cargo to fill expanded fleets. The busiest shipping season typically starts in late July or early August and can continue through October.

“‘This year, July was not good,’ Steinke said. ‘August numbers are not looking good.’

“‘Obviously the economy is still sputtering,’ Steinke said, and we’re a pretty good barometer of that.’

“Long Beach and the adjacent Port of Los Angeles are the two largest container ports in the U.S., accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s shipments, according to Art Wong, a spokesman for the Long Beach port. August figures will be reported around mid-month, he said …” –

According to a story in the Journal of Commerce on September 14th – “mid-month” – here’s what those August figures revealed: “Import volume at the ports of LA and Long Beach signaled a weak demand heading into the peak fall season in August, falling 9.4 percent compared to last year.” –

A 9.4% decline of 40 percent? And officials still insist that our “sputtering” economy is recovering?