Container Volumes in Los Angeles and Long Beach Reflect Export Weakness

November 16th, 2015

This week we look at recently released data pertaining to trade with Asia, the health of Puerto Rico’s economy, and driving habits across the country.

Container Volumes in Los Angeles and Long Beach Reflect Export Weakness

We track container volumes at the west coast maritime ports to monitor potential spillover effects to the U.S. economy from trade with Asia.  The slowing Chinese economy and the strong U.S. dollar have the potential to impact export oriented industries in the U.S.

The number of outbound loaded containers at the Port of Long Angeles and Port of Long Beach were down -5.5% during October.  “Outbound loaded” refers to containers that are being shipped from the U.S. that contain goods.  (Because the volume of imports exceeds the volume of exports, roughly half of the containers are shipped out empty).

The decline from October ’14 to October ‘15 is particularly notable, because volumes in October ’14 were weak due to labor disagreements that lead to a strike.


The overall 5.5% decline in October represents a -14.7% decline at POLA and a +6.5% increase at POLB.  As the graph above shows, volumes at the two ports are generally correlated, but can diverge for several months at a time.


In–bound loaded volumes have been more stable, but declined by  -2.2% in October ’15 from the year prior (POLA -3.3%; POLB -.8%).

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico recently released its Economic Activity Index for September ’15.  According to the index, September is the first month since December ’12 that the Puerto Rico economy has shown year over year growth.


Non-farm payroll employment (+ 0.5%); electric power generation (+1.0%); and gasoline consumption (+4.6) were all positive contributors.  Cement sales declined (-5.3%).


Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Capita Reflects Significant State Variation.

The Federal Highway Administration recently released statistics for vehicle miles traveled by State.  The variations from State to State are remarkable.  Excluding the District of Columbia (5,434 VMT per capita), Alaska (6,576 VMT per capita) has the lowest driving rate in the nation.  Of the lower 48, New York (6,587 VMT per capita) drives the least.

Wyoming (15,961 VMT per capita) and North Dakota  (15,961 VMT per capita) drive the most.

While these statistics are interesting, the changes in driving habits can have important impacts on certain municipal sectors (i.e. gas tax, toll roads).


Between ’08 and ’13, VMT per capita declined by -3.5% in the United States.  Mississippi, District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania all experienced greater than 10% declines.


Have a Great Week,

Michael Craft, CFA