If you’re looking for a tangible recovery sign, here it is. Physical goods shipped via container, both into and out of the US, have rebounded substantially and are approaching 2003 – 2008 average levels. In addition (not shown in the chart below), the mix of trade is more favourable for the US as well whereby imports continue to fall while exports are growing.
Transport Trackers: We have seen resurgence in trade volumes in Aug‐Sept. This is good. A weak dollar may also help give a little kicker to the flows, based on our long term view of what dollar does for trade. After all, this is one of the desired effects of debasing the dollar slowly.
It’s doubtful that the entirety of this rebound results from government stimulus alone. Viewed from the other side of the pond, Chinese container volumes have mostly recovered as well. As a healthy sign of a diversifying economy, second tier Chinese ports have been growing faster than major shipping hubs such as Hong Kong.
It’s a bit too early to pop the champagne. Yet if these trends can sustain themself, then a growing, more balanced container trade would be great news for both the US and the rest of the world.
(Charts via Transport Trackers, “The Rebound Thus Far”, 22 September 2009)