US retail imports surge again ahead of more tariffs as inventories soar
IMPORTS through US major ports reached unusually high numbers just before new tariffs on goods from China took effect September 1 and are expected to surge again before tariffs hit in December, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates
11 September 2019 - 19:00
'Retailers are still trying to minimse the impact of the trade war on consumers by bringing in as much merchandise as they can before each new round of tariffs drives up prices,' said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.
New 15 per cent tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect at the beginning of this month and are scheduled to be expanded to additional goods on December 15 - covering a total of about US$300 billion in imports.
In addition, 25 per cent tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports already imposed over the past year will increase to 30 per cent on October 1.
'The tariff war with China closely resembles a poker game, with each country continually upping the ante,' Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.
'As each side eyes its hand, things can only get worse.' US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.96 million TEU in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9.1 per cent from June and up 2.9 per cent year-over-year.
'Numbers were high again in August, which was estimated at 1.93 million TEU, up 1.8 per cent year-over-year. September is forecast at 1.85 million, down 0.7 per cent from last year; October at 1.92 million TEU, down 5.5 per cent; November at 1.97 million TEU, up 8.8 per cent, and December at 1.77 million TEU, down 9.8 per cent,' he said
Likely driven by the new tariffs scheduled for December, November's 1.97 million TEU would be the highest monthly total since the record two billion TEU seen in October 2018.
The first half of 2019 totalled 10.5 million TEU, up 2.1 per cent over the first half of 2018, and 2019 is expected to see a new record of 21.9 million TEU.
That would be up 0.7 per cent from last year's previous record of 21.8 million TEU, which rose 6.2 per cent over 2017. January 2020 is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, down 4.5 per cent from January 2019, he said.
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