Panjiva reports a February decline in U.S-bound waterborne shipments
The company said February imports––at 837,700––marked an 8 percent annual decline, representing the first time there was not an annual increase since June 2016.
February data for United States-bound waterborne imports issued by Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers, was notable but not necessarily in a positive sense.
The company said February imports––at 837,700––marked an 8 percent annual decline, representing the first time there was not an annual increase since June 2016. February data also marked the first full month of import readings under the Trump administration, Panjiva noted.
Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers told LM there are some technical issues that likely impacted February data.
“At this time of year, the numbers are always a little bit volatile due to the timing of the Lunar New Year, as many factories in China, South Korea, and Japan shudder or slow down the last week of January and the first week of February,” he explained. “Last year’s Lunar New Year was later in February, and it was a leap year, too, with one extra day in February.”
But perhaps more significant as it relates to the data, he said, is that there was a situation in December and January in which both overseas and United States manufacturers saw the incoming Trump administration potentially taking quick action in the form of unilaterally imposed tariffs and taxes, leading the manufacturers to move merchandise before any action was taken.
“What we saw in late January after the inauguration and into February was that the initial rhetoric is quick action being taken by the new White House was not the case, with things from a policy perspective being a lot less hawkish than was initially thought,” he said. “Things like labeling China as a currency manipulator is now expected to be addressed in April at the earliest and NAFTA renegotiation is not expected now until at least June before things really start. Things are moving more slowly, but there was a rush to get things done that we saw in January and February, especially February, which saw imports grow 9.2 percent annually and has since slowed down. That leads to a question of what happens now and if it is a return to more of business as normal.”
Panjiva also pointed out that nearly all of the U.S major trading partners saw shipment declines in February, including China down 14.8 percent and Taiwan down 14.4 percent, which Panjiva explained makes the U.S. “less relevant” as a major export market. And shipments to the European Union up 7.8 percent, which it said was its slowest rate since July.
What’s more, Rogers pointed out that nearly all of the container lines slowed down in February, as was evidenced by slowdowns in the major seaborne product imports tracked by Panjiva, including: apparel down 20.5 percent for its fastest rate of decline since 2008 and down for the ninth straight month; the post-holiday rebound in toys ending with a 30.2 percent annual decline, due to the high proportion of China sourcing for toys; iron and steel imports fell 2.4 percent after six months of gains; and auto parts and vehicles rose 0.2 percent.
While year-to-date data is not available, Rogers said that January and February cumulatively are down 1.2 percent annually.
“This could reflect a bit of a slowdown, coming off of a strong period for trade and the election,” he said.