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The US National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting weak or negative growth in container volumes into US ports over the coming several months as retailers manage inventory to match poor demand.
The group, which represents 1.6m retail establishments in the US, is estimating that major US ports handled 1.18m teu in February, down 9.6% from February 2007, and the seventh month to show year-to-year volume decline. Volumes in March are forecast to remain unchanged, at 1.27m teu, with April volumes expected to be up 1.8% year-to-year, May up 0.7% and June down 3.6%.
"Container traffic at ports mirrors what retailers expect to sell in their stores, and the retail industry is experiencing only moderate growth," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy.
On the plus side, the light traffic means few congestion worries for the coming months, the group said.
In its February international freight trends report, RW Baird said January inbound port volumes to LA and Long Beach decreased by 9%, representing the sixth consecutive month of contracting volumes.
"Given an early Chinese New Year and Easter, we expected January volumes to be better, which puts further downside pressure on our inbound Trans-Pacific ocean outlook," said the report.
US exports, meanwhile, remain healthy and the Asia-Europe lane continues to show robust growth, although fears of recession in Europe are dampening the outlook. Baird's airfreight indices continue to reflect stable growth in Asia and Europe, and weakness in North America. January year-on-year growth in Asia was 4%; Europe 3% and North America 4%.
The US research house said Q407 yield pressure on airfreight forwarders as a result of backlogs, capacity constraints and rising fuel prices, should alleviate over the course of 2008. "Relief from yield pressure should occur in 2H08 given capacity growth should exceed demand growth amid prospects for a slowing international freight environment."
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