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NRF: Expected rise in container traffic sign of economic recovery

WASHINGTON -- Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 9% in April over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“These numbers are an indication that the economy is recovering and retailers are expecting continued increases in sales through the summer and beyond,” NRF VP supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “There are challenges ahead from rising prices for gasoline and other essentials, but inventories are under control and retailers are optimistic.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.1 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in February, traditionally the slowest month of the year and the latest for which actual numbers are available. That was down 8% from January but up 10% from February 2010. It was the 15th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

March was estimated at 1.2 million TEU, an increase of 11%over March 2010. April is forecast at 1.24 million TEU, up 9% from a year ago; May at 1.32 million TEU, up 4%t; June at 1.38 million TEU, up 5%; July at 1.45 million TEU, up 5%; and August at 1.54 million TEU, up 8%.

The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.4 million TEU, up 8% from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16% increase over 2009. Last year’s percentages were high because 2009’s 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003.

“The economy is slowly on the mend with many of the key short-term indicators providing positive directions,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Consumers are buoyed by falling unemployment and are somewhat freer with their money.”

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