U.S. seaborne imports increased 5.5% in November on a year earlier, Panjiva data shows, the fifth straight increase. This suggests the return-to-growth seen in the value of goods imports seen in October might continue. The fastest growth among major product lines came from furnishings and iron/steel at 6% while auto and parts imports increased 1%. The latter two may act as bait to President-elect Trump’s transitional trade team looking for initial industries to target. Imports of apparel fell 11%, the sixth straight drop. The EU continue to be the biggest contributor to growth at 11%, while China’s exports to the U.S. by sea climbed 5%. Based on year-to-date shipments, total growth for 2016 could be 2.1%.
U.S. seaborne import shipments climbed by 5.5% in November on a year earlier, Panjiva data shows, the fifth straight month of rises and at 924,500 the highest for the month since at least 2007. While a slightly slower growth rate than October’s 7.6% it suggests the turnaround in the value of goods imports seen that month, as discussed in Panjiva research of December 6, may continue.
Among major products by volume, furnishings experienced the fastest growth rate at 6.4%, followed closely by iron and steel products (6.3%). The latter have now increased of three months after 16 straight down months, which may suggest that the effectiveness of trade cases is waning. This may have a political consequence given the prominence of steel industry executives in President-elect Trump’s advisory team.
Imports of autos and parts continued to grow for a fourth month, but at a slower rate of 1.1%. Nonetheless the auto industry will likely be at the center of any renegotiation of NAFTA given the U.S. runs a deficit in completed autos and a surplus in parts. Among other consumer goods imports of apparel fell 11.1%, the sixth straight drop and the fastest rate of decline since March. This may suggest warm-weather driven sales expectations are leading retailers to be less cautious on running inventories down. Finally, the last major month of toy imports showed a 1.2% drop overall, though as always specific lines will have done well.
Imports from the European Union once again experienced the fastest rate of growth among the key regions with 11.3% growth on a year earlier, partly reflecting the strength of the dollar, and marking the 11th straight increase. Imports from Asia also recovered, and in particular from China where a 5.0% increase in shipments was the most rapid since February and confirms the broad based nature of China’s export recovery.
The outlook for U.S. trade is slightly less upbeat in terms of industrial items, with the ISM import gauge falling to 50.5% from 52.5% as flagged in Panjiva research of December 1. While still indicating expansion it is a contrast to the overall manufacturing expectations. That would suggest more domestic sourcing than imports.
The outlook for consumer product imports is becoming more upbeat, however, with the University of Michigan survey reaching its highest since January 2015 according to Bloomberg. With 92% of imports normally completed by the end of November, imports year-to-date suggest that total seaborne import growth in 2016 will reach 2.1%, the highest implied rate since May.
This research was first published in the Panjiva Daily, which features global trade news and data-driven insights and is free for all Panjiva subscribers. To find out more email email@example.com.