Imports at seaports on the U.S. eastern seaboard surged in February, a sign that retailers and other merchants are stepping up their restocking of warehouses and store shelves heading into the spring shopping season.
The Georgia Ports Authority reported Monday that loaded imports in February rose to 140,624 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, a common measurement of shipping container volume, an increase of 8.5% from January and 22.7% over the same month a year ago. Georgia’s numbers are driven mostly by the results at the Port of Savannah, the second-busiest container port on the U.S. East Coast, after New York-New Jersey.
Loaded exports remained flat from a year earlier at 105,745 TEUs, likely a result of the strength of the dollar. Imports and exports are typically divided by whether shipping containers are loaded with goods or if they are empties being returned to a port.
Other East Coast ports also reported strong import volume in February.
Loaded imports the Port of Charleston rose 15% in February compared with a year earlier, according to the South Carolina Ports Authority. Exports were flat compared with a year ago. At the Port of Virginia in Norfolk, import throughput rose 22.4% year-over-year in February while exports rose 25%. The Virginia Port Authority doesn’t distinguish between loaded containers and empties.
Inventory levels across all businesses, including retailers and merchant wholesalers, surged last summer and remained stubbornly high for most of the year, before starting to fall after the holiday season. Inventory stocks ticked up across most segments in January, according to the Commerce Department, when the ratio of business inventories to sales reached the highest level since the 2008-2009 recession.
“There’s some cautious restocking of inventories going on,” said Charles Clowdis, a trade economist with IHS Inc. “I think we will have into 2017, this steady, reliable consistent 2% GDP growth, and that’s what we’re going to have to suffer through…I wouldn’t look for a big inventory restocking blast over the summer.”
Source: Wall Street Journal