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September 13, 2018

American retailers expect imports to remain strong this month

According to the United States' National Retail Federation's (NRF) monthly Global Port Tracker, imports at the country's major retail container ports are expected to remain strong this month after setting three new records this summer.

"More tariffs could come any day, and retailers have been bringing in record amounts of merchandise ahead of that in order to mitigate the impact on their customers," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Retail sales are growing stronger than expected this year thanks to tax cuts and job creation, but tariffs are the wild card that threaten to throw away a significant portion of those benefits."

"The current boom in shipping can primarily be explained by importers' response to the U.S. trade war with China," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. "Consumers appear to be spending money on goods ahead of the tariff price increases that will eventually come. But there could be a rocky road ahead as the impact of tariffs begins to be more fully felt."

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.9 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.8 percent from June and up 5.6 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

August was estimated at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.8 percent year-over-year. September is forecast at 1.83 million TEU, up 2.4 percent; October at 1.88 million, up 5 percent; November at 1.79 million TEU, up 1.7 percent, and December also at 1.79 million TEU, up 3.6 percent. January 2019 is forecast at 1.77 million TEU, up 0.4 percent over January 2018.

Source: NRF