January U.S.-bound imports show growth, reports Panjiva
February 15, 2017
Data recently issued by Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers, showed a strong start to 2017 for United States-bound waterborne imports, following the lead of a strong end to 2016 in December.
January imports were up 5.4 percent annually at 929,970, topping December’s 928,535 on a sequential basis. This marked the seventh consecutive month of growth, according to Panjiva data, with the firm noting that this ongoing “expansion in imports may contribute to further expansion in the over all U.S. trade deficit on a year earlier.”
In an interview, Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers said that January’s strong rate of growth was somewhat surprising, given the early timing of the Lunar New Year, which potentially means that factories in China and South Korea did not close early for the holiday, as is often the case.
“That suggests that the ‘drawbridge could come up’ at any time,” he said. “I think China did a better job of that than South Korea, because its exports were up and South Korea’s were not. There is a degree of anxiety in China exporting, too. And you are also seeing the impact of the strong dollar…which is making European goods really cheap.”
That is evident, too, with imports from the European Union up 14.8 percent in January and up 14.3 for the fourth quarter and 8.8 percent for all of 2016. He said that is likely due to a combination of industrial manufacturers trying to get ahead of potential changes in U.S. trade policy, coupled with currency valuations also playing a part at the moment.
In terms of where U.S. trade policy is going, with the U.S. formally pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after President Trump sworn into office and his stated desire for bilateral trade partnerships, Rogers said that the “U.S. economy at the moment is as easy or difficult as it always was.”
The reason for this, he explained, is because there has not been a proper, fully fledged macroeconomic plan issued by the White House, adding that Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Janet Yellen recently noted more clarity is needed with this before things move forward.
“There is that area of uncertainty, but it is more likely to be reflationary, with more economic growth and more inflation and lower taxes than the other way around,” said Rogers. “The uncertainty for the trade community is that many businesses are trying to figure out how to approach supply chain operations and where to make their investments, and are also worried about long-term trends and short-term shocks of Trump potentially issuing an executive order to put, say, a 15 percent tariff on everything coming from China or issuing a border adjustable tax. It is those things that I call ‘wake up one morning challenges’ for a situation, especially in the cased of both Presidents Bush and Obama that were slowly implemented and not done in 140 characters over Twitter.”
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