Panjiva points to strong import growth to start 2018

United States-bound waterborne shipment activity had a strong start to the year in January, according to data issued this week by global trade intelligence firm Panjiva.

January shipments, at 1,006,861, were up 7.7% annually compared to 934,447 in January 2017. Panjiva said this marks the fastest rate of growth in a month going back to April 2017, as well as outpacing the cumulative 4.1% growth rate for all of 2017, which it noted was a record year for U.S.-bound shipments in aggregate.

“It is a strong start, but we need to be a little careful with annual comparisons, due to the timing of the Lunar New Year, which is 19 days later in 2018 compared to last year,” said Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers. “But January does continue a nice run, with growth intact for 18 of the last 19 months.”

Panjiva pointed to a number of growth drivers for this ongoing stretch of growth, including American business confidence remaining high after the recently passed tax reform bill, which it said is leading suppliers to expect an increase in investment. But it also observed that consumer confidence is starting to show signs of slippage from ten-year highs, while spending growth has continued, as per Bloomberg data.

 Another factor highlighted by Panjiva relates to the White House recently starting to implement tariffs on washing machines and solar panel imports “that have yet to be widespread.

Rogers said he expects the sustained run of import growth to continue, citing expected continued consumer spending activity, coupled with America buying more goods than it produces, which leads to import gains over time.

“We really are seeing 2018 begin much in the same way 2018 finished,” he said.

Exports from developing countries saw strong growth in January, with India up 15.2% and Vietnam up 13.3%. Conversely, Taiwan and Japan were off 1.2% and 0.2%, respectively. Shipments from the European Union to the U.S. rose 4.9%.