Asia-U.S. West Coast prices (FBX01 Weekly) ticked up 5% to $2,029 per FEU, according to the latest Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) unveiled by Freightos on Tuesday. Asia-U.S. East Coast prices (FBX03 Weekly) climbed 3% to $3,075 per FEU. Asia-North Europe prices (FBX11 Weekly) increased 2% to $1,747 per FEU. Asia-Mediterranean prices (FBX13 Weekly), on the other hand, fell 1% to $2,313 per FEU.

As for the Freightos Air Index, China-North America weekly prices increased 6% to $4.02 per kilogram. China- North Europe weekly prices, in contrast, fell 3% to $2.91 per kilogram. North Europe-North America weekly prices fell 4% to $1.67 per kilogram.

Though U.S. retail spending has held up even as inflation cools, sales across major retailers have been uneven. While Amazon, Walmart and TJX reported strong second-quarter numbers, others like Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods did not fare as well and are seeing possible signs of a slowdown in consumer strength.

While a recent analysis shows that U.S. retail inventory levels are decreasing, they remain elevated, and, together with slowing sales, will likely push off a significant restocking cycle and freight rebound until mid-2024. Taken together, these trends support projections that import volumes likely reached their peak for the year in August.

Trans-Pacific ocean rates climbed slightly last week, with West Coast and East Coast prices both exceeding 2019 levels. Although success in August general rate increases (GRIs) was due not only to increased demand but also to strict capacity management by carriers, if demand ebbs as fleet sizes continue to grow, peak rates for this year may be seen, even as some carriers have announced trans-Pacific GRIs for mid-September.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has said that low-water restrictions will likely stay in place for at least 10 months, though there has not been any significant impact on container shipping via the canal yet. With alternatives and excess capacity in the market, it is looking unlikely that these restrictions will cause much disruption to container trade.

China-North Europe import volumes were down year on year in the first half, though demand has improved since March, with June volumes 5% higher than last year and 6% higher than in 2019. The August GRIs pushed Asia-North Europe spot rates to about the $1,700-per-FEU mark and above contract levels through last week on this demand improvement and on capacity reductions, though there is skepticism that carriers will be able to sustain these prices.

Asia-Mediterranean demand was resilient through June, and August rates of $2,300 per FEU have been about 20% higher than in July, suggesting that volumes continue to improve.




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