Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported – and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation’s container port traffic.
From the Port of Los Angeles: Double-Digit Growth Propels Port of Los Angeles to Busiest May in Port History
Overall cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles increased nearly 11 percent in May compared to the same period last year, marking the busiest May in the Port’s 109-year history. Total volumes registered at 770,409 Twenty-Foot Equivalents (TEUs), with container growth of 8.7 percent for the first five months of 2016 compared to last year.
To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.
On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was up 0.7% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in April. Outbound traffic was up 0.4% compared to 12 months ending in April.
The downturn in exports over the last year was probably due to the slowdown in China and the stronger dollar.
The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).
Usually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March (depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year).
In general exports are moving sideways and imports are gradually increasing.