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US retail imports surged in November ahead of China tariffs

Retail imports at major U.S. container ports surged significantly in November as retailers stocked up ahead of more China tariffs in December, the National Retail Federation said Dec. 9.

November imports climbed 8% year over year to about 1.95 million 20-foot equivalent units or TEU. A TEU is a 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

The U.S. imported 1.88 million TEU in October, the latest month with available data, the NRF said in its Global Port Tracker report with maritime consulting firm Hackett Associates. This was up 0.6% year over year, but down 7.5% from the all-time monthly record of 2 million TEU in October 2018.

A new round of Chinese tariffs is still scheduled to take effect Dec. 15, the NRF said.

In a statement, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs PolicyJonathan Gold said the direct impact of new tariffs will not be seen until the holiday season is over as merchandise for the period has already arrived in the U.S.

"Nonetheless, tariffs are bad for both consumer and business confidence, and we hope that the December tariffs will be canceled or postponed as a sign of good faith. We need a deal with China as soon as possible so we can bring an end to the trade war that has put a drag on the U.S. economy for far too long," Gold added.

The NRF issued the following forecasts for the coming months:

* December: 1.79 million TEU, down 8.9% year over year.

* January 2020: 1.87 million TEU, down 1.2% year over year.

* February 2020: 1.62 million, down 0.3% year over year.

* March 2020: 1.76 million TEU, up 9.2% year over year.

* April 2020: 1.84 million TEU, up 5.6% year over year.

"The U.S. consumer has shrugged off the slowdown in the economy. Even though growth has slowed, low unemployment and higher wages have helped bolster purchases and, thereby, imports for consumer goods," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said in a statement.