Article by Ken Roberts – Forbes Magazine
One look at the list of the 10 U.S. seaports with the greatest increase in the value of their import trade this year, and you can find validation for the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates this year and continue to do so in 2018. The list also aligns with recent strong employment figures and buoyant consumer confidence.
The list also suggests that long-dormant inflation, which has befuddled the Fed’s governors, economists and lesser pundits alike, might spring into action next year. One question will be whether it’s a manageable inflation.
Here are the 10 ports whose imports have increased the most through the first 10 months of 2017, the most recent data available from U.S. Census, as analyzed by WorldCity, the company where I serve as president:
- Port Houston
- Port of Long Beach
- Port of Los Angeles
- Port of New Orleans
- Port of Savannah
- Port of Newark
- Port of Seattle
- Port of Wilmington, Dela.
- Port of Jacksonville
That these ports have seen the value of their trade increase the most tells you at least three things:
- Oil prices have rebounded — meaning we are paying more for gasoline.
- It tells you that imports of consumer goods are increasing — meaning we have more spending power, or at least we believe we do.
- It tells you that imports of motor vehicles are increasing — meaning we feel confident enough to head to the showroom.
This is the first of a three-part look at the top 10 “ports” for imports, including an examination of the top five imports and growth rates for each.
In successive reports, I will look at the top 10 airports and the top 10 border crossings.
In three previous columns, I focused on the top 10 airports, seaports and border crossings for export trade. Four of the above ports appeared on that list as well: Port Houston ranked No. 1 on the export side as well, the Port of Los Angeles ranked No. 4, the Port of New Orleans ranked No. 6 and the Port of Savannah ranked No. 9.
All told, there are more than 450 “ports” for goods to enter and exit the United States. Total U.S. exports are up 6.13% through the first 10 months of the year. Total imports are up slightly more, 6.75%.
Exports by border crossing — this includes truck, rail and, in some cases, pipeline — are up a relatively slight 2.02%. Exports via air, whether via so-called “belly” cargo on passenger flights or on dedicated freighters, are up 6.11% while ocean-bound exports ocean are up 10.98%.
Border crossing trade, by value, makes up 36.33% of all U.S. exports, the largest percentage of the three. Most of that trade is with just two countries, NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico. (In another previous column, I wrote about the incongruous, puzzling and somewhat surprising support the voters of U.S. communities bordering Mexico offered for then-candidate Donald Trump despite the enormous growth in their communities and trade in the quarter century since NAFTA’s passage and his threats to scuttle it.)
Here is a closer look at the top 10 seaports, as measure by the growth in value of their imports through October of this year:
1. Port Houston imports have increased $8.21 billion in 2017. Not surprisingly, this is about energy, but it’s not just oil and gas.
- Oil rose 19.49% compared to last year to $7.82 billion.
- Gasoline and other refined petroleum products rose 21.16% to $3.9 billion.
- Motor vehicles for transporting people fell 5.93% to $2.37 billion.
- Seamless iron tubes and pipes rose 98.57% to $1.81 billion.
- Iron and steel pipes and tubing rose 279.96% to $1.53 billion.
2. The Port of Long Beach’s imports are up a nearly identical amount, $8.19 billion, and the story has similarities.
- Oil rose 102.22% compared to last year to $3.97 billion.
- Motor vehicle parts rose 57.29% to $2.46 billion.
- Computers rose 1.12% to $2.17 billion.
- TVs and computer monitors rose 35.23% to $1.31 billion.
- Furniture and parts rose 6.89% to $1.28 billion.
3. The Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s top-ranked port by value — including air and border-crossing trade — and a neighbor to the Port of Long Beach, has seen its imports increase $7.61 billion this year. Its top five imports:
- Motor vehicles for transporting people rose 14.99% compared to last year to $10.02 billion.
- Computers rose 27.09% to $8.78 billion.
- Motor vehicle parts fell 8.09% to $6.93 billion.
- TVs and computer monitors rose 20.96% to $5.95 billion.
- Printers and parts rose 1.64% to $5.66 billion.
4. The Port of New Orleans imports have increased substantially as well, up $4.57 billion. The leading imports by value:
- Gasoline and other refined petroleum products rose 11.98% compared to last year to $$2.72 billion.
- Oil rose 63.84% to $2.5 billion.
- Aluminum rose 122.44% to $1.71 billion.
- Iron alloys rose 117.54% to $1.27 billion.
- Refined copper and alloys rose 82.47% to $736,22 million.
5. The Port of Savannah has registered a $3.91 billion increase in imports this year. The top five imports:
- Motor vehicle parts fell 8.11% compared to last year to $2.37 billion.
- Medicines in individual dosages fell 4.26% to $2.19 billion.
- Furniture and parts rose 14.5% to $1.34 billion.
- Toys, children’s bicycles and games rose 5.19% to $1.05 billion.
- Seats, excluding barber and dental seats, rose 5.38% to $963.69 million.
6. Imports into the Port of Newark have increased $3.45 billion this year.
- Motor vehicles for transporting people rose 13.14% compared to last year to $10.55 billion.
- Medicines in individual dosages fell 23.13% to $5.3 billion.
- Gasoline and other refined petroleum products rose 8.06% to $5.26 billion.
- Oil rose 29.42% to $3.07 billion.
- Rum, gin, vodka and other liquors rose 2.77% to $2.14 billion.
7. PhilaPort, as the rechristened port in Philadelphia is now known, has registered a 3.34% increase in its imports this year, led by motor vehicles.
- Motor vehicles for transporting people rose 25.62% compared to last year to $2.55 billion.
- Oil rose 212.13% to $1.59 billion.
- Frozen beef rose 4.59% to $830.22 million.
- Cocoa beans rose 8.89% to $786.08 million.
- Semi-finished iron and non-alloy steel products rose 98.13% to $613.6 million.
8. The Port of Seattle, where Boeing manufactures and where Starbucks is headquartered, has seen its imports increase just under $2.3 billion this year.
- Electric storage batteries rose 3750.28% compared to last year to $592.03 million.
- Aircraft parts rose 45.59% to $578.44 million.
- Furniture and parts rose 16.08% to $463.75 million.
- Toys, children’s bicycles and games fell 5.72% to $321.32 million.
- Coffee rose 74.55% to $310.81 million.
9. The Port of Wilmington, Dela., which is a neighbor to No. 7 PhilaPort, has seen its imports increase a sizable $2.21 billion, the largest percentage increase among the top 10 at 40.85%.
- Oil rose 57.3% compared to last year to $6.2 billion.
- Bananas rose 2.02% to $455.15 million.
- Gasoline and other refined petroleum products fell 20.92% to $264.29 million.
- Grapes fell 22.26% to $198.52 million.
- The fruit category that includes pineapples rose 12.53% to $97.22 million.
10. The Port of Jacksonville registered a $2.20 billion increase through the first 10 months of the year.
- Motor vehicles for transporting people rose 15.19% compared to last year to $9.33 billion.
- Travel goods, including handbags, wallets and jewelry, fell 1.24% to $569.19 million.
- Commercial vehicles rose 0.67% to $568.11 million.
- Gasoline and other refined petroleum products rose 19.46% to $262.89 million.
- Coffee rose 26.29% to $257.25 million.