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Container-shipping lines delayed announcing targets for next year's rates on Asia-U.S. routes as they struggle to forecast volumes amid unsteady economic growth and an expanding global fleet.
"No one is able to predict even the near-term outlook," Brian Conrad, executive administrator at the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, a group of 15 container lines, said in Shenzhen, China. Publication of the TSA's annual rates guidelines, which usually happens around this month, may be delayed until early next year, he said.
The delay reflects U.S. retailers' unwillingness to commit to orders for Asian-made toys, flat-screen TVs and sneakers amid a 9-percent jobless rate and stock market fluctuations. An increase in the number of container vessels in service this year has also hindered shipping lines' efforts to secure higher rates.
"It's very, very difficult to look far ahead," said Rolf Habben-Jansen, chief executive officer of Damco, the freight- forwarding arm of AP Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world's largest container-shipping line. "The economic news is not consistent, and there is a lot of nervousness in the market."
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