Export container counts continue to weaken, which is a warning that the global economy is slowing. Export three month rolling averages continue to decelerate – being in negative territory year-over-year. This is a headwind for 4Q2014 GDP. Container counts are a good metric to gauge the economy.

Consider that imports final sales are added to GDP usually several months after import – while the import cost itself is subtracted from GDP in the month of import. Export final sales occur around the date of export. Container counts do not include bulk commodities such as oil or autos which are not shipped in containers. For this month:

  Acceleration Month-over-Month Change from One Year Ago Year to Date vs. Previous Year 3 Month Rolling Average vs. Average One Year Ago Acceleration 3 Month Rolling Average Imports  -4.8%  5.8%  5.9%  5.5%  2.1% Exports  -5.0%  -10.6%  -0.1%  -7.2%  -3.2%

As the data is very noisy – the best way to look at this data is the 3 month rolling averages. There is a direct linkage between imports and USA economic activity – and the change in growth in imports foretells real change in economic growth. Export growth is an indicator of competitiveness and global economic growth.

This deceleration of imports 3 month rolling average is not a positive sign for GDP as the year progresses.

Unadjusted 3 Month Rolling Average for Container Counts Year-over-Year Change (comparing the 3 month average one year ago to the current 3 month average) – Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Combined – Imports (red line) and Exports (blue line)

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There is reasonable correlation between the container counts and the US Census trade data also being analyzed by Econintersect. But trade data lags several months after the more timely container counts.

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