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Retail container traffic to increase in first half of 2012

WASHINGTON — The monthly Global Port Tracker report, released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, said that import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be down 6.8% in February from the same month a year ago. However, volumes should show year-over-year increases through most of the remaining first half of 2012.

“With consumer confidence building, retailers are optimistic that the economy is recovering but are continuing to be cautious with their inventory levels,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “Merchants want to be sure that growth will be sustained and that demand will be there to meet supply.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.17 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 6% from November since holiday merchandise was already on the shelves but up 2% from December 2010 and brought 2011 to a close at 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

January 2012 was estimated at 1.17 million TEU, down 3.3% from January 2011, and February, historically the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.03 million TEU, down 6.8% from a year ago. Increases are expected to resume in March, forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 8.6% from last year. April is forecast at 1.25 million TEU, up 2.4%; May at 1.28 million TEU, down 0.7%; and June at 1.28 million, up 3%. The first half of 2012 should total 7.18 million TEU, up 0.5% from the same period last year.

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