“The weak cargo increases expected over the next few months are consistent with other signs that the economy is slowly improving but show that retailers remain cautious, especially when it comes to stocking their inventories,” Jonathan Gold, the vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, which commissioned the study, said. “We’re looking at barely one percent of year-over-year growth through the early summer, and August and September are expected to be basically flat even though they’re supposed to be two of the busiest months of the years.”
Though import figures do not directly correlate with employment or retail sales, the amount of merchandise imported reflects retailer expectations.
U.S. ports handled 1.14 million cargo units in March, a 10.9 percent decrease from February and an 8.6 percent quarter-over-quarter decrease. The first six months of the year are expected to see 7.8 million cargo units, a two percent increase from the same period last year.
“Despite the Fed pumping liquidity into the market, consumer confidence still has not turned the corner,” Ben Hackett, the founder of Hackett Associates, which contributed to the report, said. “We need to see the economy strengthen in the coming quarters before we can begin to see the threat of a further economic downturn dissipating. Trade will remain at low growth levels until we reach this stage.”