U.S. Box Imports Estimate Cut on ‘Stubbornly Slow’ Recovery

The U.S. will import 2.8 percent more containerized goods next year, down from a previous forecast of 4.7 percent, The Journal of Commerce/PIERS said, blaming a “stubbornly slow” economic recovery.

The projected growth for next year would still be higher than this year’s estimated 2.2 percent gain, and a three-year contraction that ended with a 15 percent slump in 2009, according to data from Newark, New Jersey-based PIERS, a unit of UBM Global. Imports will reach 17.4 million twenty-foot-equivalent units next year, compared with 16.9 million in 2011.

“We still have an uncomfortably high unemployment rate, and sales of homes are still not as strong as we want them to be,” said Mario O. Moreno, an economist with The Journal of Commerce-UBM Global Trade based in Newark, New Jersey. “Those things affect imports because most of the items we import are consumer goods.”

The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, will expand 1.8 percent next year, compared with 1.5 percent in 2011, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund estimates. That compares with projected global growth of 4 percent. Unemployment is running at 8.6 percent, almost twice the 4.4 percent rate in mid-2007, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

Container Ships

The global fleet of container ships expanded 17 percent to a near-record 4,774 vessels in the past four years, data from IHS Fairplay show. The cost for taking a 40-foot container to the U.S. West Coast from Shanghai tumbled 28 percent $1,419 this year, according to data from London-based Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker. About $700 of that is a fuel surcharge, according to Copenhagen-based A.P. Moeller-Maersk AS.

Containerized imports from Asia to the U.S. West Coast will advance 2.7 percent next year, compared with an earlier estimate of 5.9 percent, The Journal of Commerce/PIERS predicts. That’s the world’s largest inter-regional trade lane for shipping manufactured goods such as furniture, televisions and car parts, according to Clarkson.

The London shipbroker cut its estimate for this year’s growth in trade on the Asia-to-U.S. route to 1.5 percent from 6.1 percent in November. The global trade prediction was cut to 8.3 percent from 9 percent.

World trade in goods and services will expand 5.8 percent next year, compared with 7.5 percent this year and 12.8 percent in 2010, the Washington-based IMF estimates.

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