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Shipping Stats Bode Poorly for Consumer Demand

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Imports up, exports down, and less money to spend overall.

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Container shipping stats at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, as well as those at the Port of Portland, Oregon, are all down. This is consistent with the collapse of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index.

Inbound container stats year to date are down 9.0% year to date at LA, 10.8% at Long Beach, and 9.9% at Portland. This doesn't bode well for expected consumer demand headed into the all-important Christmas season.

And based on the new age of consumer frugality, with frugality to appear In state budgets as well, I expect this trend toward lower TEUs to last far more than one year. It's payback time for many years of massive over-consumption on housing-financed debt and loose lending standards.

With that backdrop, let's take a look at a few container shipping charts. The size of cargo containers range from 20 feet long to more than 50 feet long. The international measure is the smallest box, the 20-footer or 20-foot-equivalent unit (TEUs).

Port of Long Beach

Container Trade in TEUs


Click to enlarge



The charts show exports are up, imports are way down, and the year-to-date TEUs are negative. At the Port of Long Beach, this will be only the second decline in TEUs since 1995. The last decline was in 2001, during the last recession.

Port of Los Angeles



Port of Portland

Marine Shipping Statistics from the Port of Portland

  • Number of calls by oceangoing vessels -4.1% change calendar year-to-date

  • Total tonnage 4.5% change calendar year-to-date

  • Breakbulk total tonnage -8.6% change calendar year-to-date

  • Number of containers (TEUs) total, load + discharge -6.6% change calendar year-to-date

  • Number of containers (TEU) load -9.9% change calendar year-to-date

  • Number of containers (teu) discharge -2.1% change calendar year-to-date

  • Grain tonnage 10.2% change calendar year-to-date

  • Auto units -2.8% change calendar year-to-date

  • Mineral bulk tonnage 8.1% change calendar year-to-date

Grains and minerals are up at Portland (exports); everything else is down. Indeed, imports are down and exports are up across the board at all 3 ports. This is additional evidence that the vaunted US consumer has at long last thrown in the towel.

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