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Trade Activity Forecast Indicators


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Trade Activity Forecast Shows Slowing, But Still Significant Growth

Flexport’s Trade Activity Forecast augments traditional economic techniques for predicting US merchandise imports with Flexport’s proprietary data. US merchandise imports are expected to slow seasonally through the end of the year, but still remain 12% higher year over year in November and 9% in December.

The Methodology: The Flexport Trade Activity Forecast combines traditional economic statistics alongside Flexport’s proprietary data and analysis to generate a forecast of U.S. merchandise import growth. The use of additional data has been particularly important due to the advent of the pandemic and the resulting shift in trade patterns away from historic averages.

Update Dec. 17, 2021 US merchandise imports in October 2021 increased by 2.7% sequentially and by 14.4% year over year according to US Bureau of Economic Analysis figures.

As shown in Figure 1, activity remains bifurcated with growth in commodity products leading the way due to higher prices, for example industrial supplies—including energy, energy derivatives and metals—rose by 46.8% year over year.

On the other hand the automotive sector remains in a downturn largely due to supply chain challenges, with imports falling by 15.7% year over year across both vehicles and parts.

The boom in consumer goods purchasing has been a major driver of international trade activity and will continue to be key for logistics network developments in the year ahead, as discussed in Flexport’s recent 2022 Outlook report.

Indeed, Flexport’s Post-Covid Indicator suggests that the demand for goods relative to services may remain high into early 2022. The rate of consumer goods imports growth has slowed down but was still at a considerable 13.1% in October.

Flexport's Trade Activity Forecast (TAF)—shown in Figure 2 in non-seasonally adjusted terms—calls for continued growth in industrial supplies, while automotive shipments are expected to continue to decline. Consumer goods imports are expected to slow seasonally into the new year on a sequential basis, while the rate of growth on a year-over-year basis will also slow down.

In aggregate the TAF for November which shows growth in total US imports of goods on a consumption basis of 12% year over year, slowing to 9% in December. On a sequential, non-seasonally adjusted basis that equates to a 5% drip in November and 1% in December.

The US Census Bureau will publish November 2021 trade data on Jan. 6 2022 and December 2021 data on Feb. 8, 2022. The next update of the Flexport Trade Activity Forecast is scheduled for Jan. 18, 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.


Indicator Release Date Release
Trade Activity Forecast December 17, 2021 View PDF
Trade Activity Forecast November 17, 2021 View PDF
Trade Activity Forecast October 22, 2021 View PDF

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