Even though optimism about the economy remains tempered by stubbornly high unemployment rates, the National Retail Federation predicts that the 2010 holiday retail season will surpass expectations and lead to retail sales that will rival 2007 levels by mid-year.
Other experts have a similar positive outlook, and according to The Journal of Commerce, some analysts now forecast US containerized ocean imports and exports in trans-Pacific trade to return to pre-recession levels in 2011. More specifically, forecast numbers from PIERS, a sister company of The Journal of Commerce, predict U.S. container imports from Asia will rise 7.7 percent next year to 13.4 million 20-foot equivalent units nearly in line with the 2007 peak of 13.6 million TEUs. Trans-Pacific exports are expected to grow by 4 percent to 6.4 million TEUs.
The growth follows an estimated 15.5 percent increase in U.S. trans-Pacific imports in 2010 and a 4.3 percent increase in exports in 2010. Most see this uptick as a shift in attitude: supply chain managers are moving from cautious optimism to stronger confidence in demand.
"Our forecast is positive but moderate," Mario O. Moreno, economist for PIERS and The Journal of Commerce, said. "We look for growth in containerized imports and exports ahead, but there are many risks."
Last week, The Journal of Commerce also reported that other indicators of future economic activity are also pointing toward growth. According to the article:
The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 1.1 percent last month -- the biggest increase since March, when the index jumped 1.4 percent.
The Economic Cycle Research Institute said its Weekly Leading Index rose to the highest level since May 7. The index rose to 126.5, the highest since 131.9 on May 7.
ECRI also produces The Journal of Commerce-ECRI Industrial Price Index, which hit a one-year high for the week ending Dec. 10 and is up 23.4 percent from a year ago.
This is good news for the start of the new year. But, I'm not convinced that we're completely out of the woods, yet. A significant amount of instability remains and that means that supplier risk management should continue to be a top priority in every company's overall business strategy.