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Retail Container Traffic Flat

WASHINGTON - Although the summer import cargo volume at major U.S. ports is holding steady with last year, traffic is expected to climb in the fall, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
     "With the economy facing continuing challenges, retailers are managing their inventory levels carefully," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp for supply chain and Customs policy. "But the increases in import volume expected this fall are a clear sign that retailers are confident consumer demand will be there in the fourth quarter."
     U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.28 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which numbers are available. That was up 6% from April and 1% from May 2010.
     It was the 18th 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.
     The first half of 2011 is estimated at 7.2 million TEU, up 5% from the first half of 2010. Global Port Tracker is maintaining its forecast of 2011 growth of 6.2%, or 15.7 million TEU.
     "The low level of inventories-to- sales ratios suggest that import container flows will continue at their suppressed levels for the summer" Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. "On the bright side, there will be no imminent boom or bust in volumes as we experienced in 2007 and 2010."

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