Cargo Drop-off a Sign of Slow Economy

Observers stunned as port imports fall after years of growth
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2007 8:02 PM CDT
Shipping containers are stacked on a cargo ship as it makes its way to the Port of Newark on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007 in New Jersey. The U.S. trade deficit declined slightly in July as record exports...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A drop in cargo at US ports has stunned analysts, who call the 1.4% fall more evidence of a stalled economy. A few factors are keeping foreign cargo at bay—the low dollar, wary buyers, and a cool housing market among them—yet observers still expressed shock. "When I first saw these numbers, I asked if they had left a column out of the spreadsheet," said one. "I thought it was a typo."

Exports will rise on the low dollar, analysts say, but falling imports stats guarantee a slow holiday season. Cargo at key ports rose only 1% in 2008, after jumping about 10% a year from 1997 to 2006, and building materials fell 20%, furniture 17%, and clothing 10% in the 2nd quarter. “It would have to be a pretty terrific October to change the overall pattern here,” said one observer.