August 2020 Sea Container Imports At Record Level Indicating An Economy Returning To Pre-Pandemic Levels

The import container counts for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach improved month-over-month and not only is well into expansion year-over-year but is also at record high levels. Exports continue in contraction.

Analyst Opinion of Container Movements

On top of a trade war and the world pandemic, import container counts significantly improved. There is chaos in container movements with containers in the wrong place and shortages of rail cars to move containers.

Simply looking at this month versus last month - both exports improved year-over-year whilst exports marginally declined. The three-month rolling averages improved for both exports and imports.

Some pundits think that the new Panama Canal locks have affected the West Coasts container counts - our analysis is that there is little impact. Many do not understand that the new locks are more expensive per ton. HOWEVER, a new trend is developing is that ships are going around the Cape because of lower fuel prices.

Import container counts give an indication of the U.S. economy's state and the data this month is suggesting stronger economic growth.

Container data is consistent with other transport data.

This data set is based on the Ports of LA and Long Beach which account for much (approximately 40%) of the container movement into and out of the United States - and these two ports report their data significantly earlier than other USA ports. Most of the manufactured goods move between countries in sea containers (except larger rolling items such as automobiles). This pulse point is an early indicator of the health of the economy.

Consider that import final sales are added to GDP usually several months after import - while the import cost itself is subtracted from GDP in the month of import. Export final sales occur around the date of export. Container counts do not include bulk commodities such as oil or autos which are not shipped in containers. For this month:

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