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Trade Activity Forecast Indicators

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Trade Activity Forecast Predicts Growth in August and Beyond

Flexport’s Trade Activity Forecast augments traditional economic techniques for predicting U.S. merchandise imports and exports with Flexport’s proprietary data. In the latest update we estimate that trade activity will recover in August after falling in July. On a real , seasonally adjusted basis, imports are set to increase by 0.8% sequentially in August and remain unchanged in September and October. Exports are expected to continue to expand by 2.5% in August with growth continuing through to November. As a result, the U.S. trade deficit in Q3’22 should be well below Q2’22’s level. These forecasts do not incorporate any effects of a U.S. rail service interruption.

The Methodology: The Flexport Trade Activity Forecast combines traditional economic statistics alongside Flexport’s proprietary data and analysis to generate a forecast of US merchandise import and export trade growth. The use of additional data has been particularly important since the advent of the pandemic and resulting shift in trade patterns away from historic averages. See our primer report for more details.

Update September 15, 2022: U.S. international merchandise trade activity fell by 2.3% sequentially in July on a balance of payments, seasonally adjusted basis.

The figures have been heavily influenced by trade price inflation, particularly for commodities which have been subject to the restructuring of global energy and food supply chains tied to the conflict in Ukraine. Excluding that - i.e. on a real basis - total trade fell by just 0.2%, including a 1.5% decline in imports which was partly offset by a 2.9% rise in exports.

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The Census, non-seasonally adjusted versions are suited for users looking for a guide to activity within supply chains on a short-term basis. When adjusting for inflation, this captures the unadulterated forecast of how many goods are expected to cross U.S. borders.

Our forecast calls for an expansion in both imports and exports in August. For imports (the black bars in Figure 1), real growth will be led by a 12.9% sequential increase in automotive shipments as the industry continues to recover from lengthy supply chain disruptions. Consumer goods imports are expected to rise by 7.2% after a marked downturn in July. All other sectors are also expected to improve, driving total growth of 4.4%.

The outlook for exports (indigo bars in Figure 1) is similar, with automotive imports set to increase by 9.4% in August while consumer goods inch 1.3% higher. The commodity-led food and industrial supplies sectors, as well as capital goods, will also improve, driving total export growth of 4.9%.

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The Balance of Payments version, particularly when seasonally adjusted, is a key input for forecasting the wider state of the economy via the inclusion of net exports in the Gross Domestic Product calculation. When seasonal adjustments are added, this answers the question: Are imports likely to be higher or lower than we would normally expect for this time of year?

After July’s contraction, import activity is expected to stabilize through the remainder of Q3’22 and into Q4’22. Imports are expected to increase by 0.8% in August before remaining unchanged in September and October and increasing thereafter. Exports are set to increase by 2.5% in August and 1.0% in September in real terms.

As a consequence of the increase in exports, the implied negative net export balance (aka trade deficit) is expected to dip to $281 billion in Q3’22 from $314 billion in Q2’22.

The US Census Bureau will publish August 2022 data on October 5, 2022. The next update of the Flexport Trade Activity Forecast is scheduled for October 17, 2022.

Please direct questions about the Flexport TAF to economics@flexport.com.

Disclaimer: The contents of this report are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. Flexport does not guarantee, represent, or warrant any of the contents of this report because they are based on our current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This report has been prepared to the best of our knowledge and research; however, the information presented herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this report.

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