October 2019 Sea Container Counts Continue To Worsen

The October year-to-date import/export container count growth rate significantly declined.

Analyst Opinion of Container Movements

Simply looking at this month versus last month - this month was terrible - especially for imports. The year-over-year rate of growth worsened for imports and worsened for exports. Year-to-date growth for both imports and exports remain deep in contraction.

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.

The three-month rolling averages for exports and imports are also in contraction.

Imports container counts give an indication of the U.S. economy's state and the soft data continues to indicate a weak U.S. economy. Exports are saying the global economy is weak as well.

Container data is consistent with other transport data indicating a weak economy.

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:

  Acceleration Month-over-Month Change from Month One Year Ago Year to Date vs. Previous Year Acceleration 3 Month Rolling Average 3 Month Rolling Average vs. Average One Year Ago
Imports -12.3 % -12.1 % -3.7 % -5.1 % -5.7 %
Exports -1.9 % -7.5 % -6.5 % -0.8 % -5.7 %
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