The supply chain sector got a small boost at the end of last week with retail sales figures for the month of July coming in ahead of expectations. Analysts had forecast a month-to-month fall in figures, but a rise of 0.2% was recorded after the automotive sector was stripped out. July retail sales with automotives included, showed zero growth, but the figures were depressed mainly due to a big drop in spending on petrol. Good growth was recorded in the key consumer sectors of healthcare and clothes.
The figures resulted in some economists predicting the economy is in recovery. "This is consistent with the view that the US economy really is on the road to recovery," said Bill Cheney, chief economist of John Hancock Financial Services. Major retailers also announced good second quarter results. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, and Home Depot both announced double-digit growth in sales.
Container imports at main US ports, meanwhile, are rising slowly, said the US National Retail Federation (NRF). The organization, which represents 1.6m retail establishments, said imports to main US ports in May, the latest month for which actual figures are available, rose 3.4% over April to 1.31m teus. The figure was down 5% on May 2007.
The NRF is predicting stronger numbers and a better second half of the year. The organization said inbound box volumes through the nine major ports and port groups included in its Port Tracker surveys (Los Angeles-Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Houston) will continue to rise slowly, with October expected to show an increase over last year.
"That's an important sign because October is when the largest share of merchandise sold during the holiday season usually comes through the ports. November is expected to decline again, but the second half of the year is looking much better than the first half, and we hope to see the trend continue in that direction," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the NRF.
The July retail figures notwithstanding, the US Federal Reserve is still expected to cut interest rates when it meets next week.
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