I’ve been following port traffic for some time. Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported – and possibly some hints about the trade report for February. LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation’s container port traffic.
To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.
On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was up 4% in February, and outbound traffic down slightly, compared to the rolling 12 months ending in January.
In general, inbound traffic has been increasing slightly recently, and outbound traffic has been mostly moving sideways.
The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).
Usually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March. Inbound traffic was up sharply year-over-year in February, but that is probably seasonal (perhaps related to timing of the Chinese New Year). This usually means the the sharp seasonal decline will happen in March.
For the month of February, loaded outbound traffic was up 4% compared to February 2012, and loaded inbound traffic was up sharply.
This suggest an increase in the trade deficit with Asia for February.