National Retail Federation lowers US consumer good import forecast for first half of 2023

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Closely watched U.S. retail trade forecasters on Monday lowered their import target for the first half of 2023 and said they expect incoming ocean container volume to remain soft going into this autumn – when retailers like Walmart should be well into holiday season preparations.

The Global Port Tracker now expects U.S. container imports of 10.4 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) for the first half of the year, a reduction of nearly 4% from its prior forecast. If imports hit that new target, it would mark a 23% drop from the first half of 2022, according to the forecast released by the National Retail Federation and maritime trade consultancy Hackett Associates on Monday.

Uncertainty spawned by high inflation, Federal Reserve interest rate hikes and recent bank failures are weighing on trade, Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said.

“Year-over-year import volumes have been on the decline at most ports since late last year, and declining exports out of China highlight the slowdown in demand for consumer goods,” Hackett said.

“Our view is that imports will remain below recent levels until inflation rates and inventory surpluses are reduced,” he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis)