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California's ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which make up the largest hub for ocean-container shipping in the hemisphere, reported a 17.9-percent year-over-year decline in imported container volume last month.
Research firm Panjiva, which tracks trade data, said U.S.-bound ocean imports fell 8 percent across all ports in February, when factories in China were closed for part of the month during the annual Lunar New Year holiday period.
In China, the weekslong pause in production for the holiday contributed to a decline in exports that led to China's first trade deficit in three years. Exports fell 1.3 percent, while imports surged 38.1 percent in February from the same month in 2016.
Panjiva researcher Chris Rogers attributed the decline in part to the Lunar New Year slowdown in Chinese production, but added that U.S. importers may have paused after adding inventories at a rapid pace in January. The January surge may have been due to retailers taking advantage of a strong dollar or anticipating higher tariffs promised by the Trump administration.
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