November/December Imports Decline: Anomaly or Concern?

Panjiva recently released its latest trade numbers covering November 11-December 11 2011. While Panjiva notes "the number of waterborne shipments coming into the U.S. experienced a 7% month-over-month decrease from November to December," the more insightful overall metrics are the wide-ranging percentages and overall volatility for the same period in recent years (which Panjiva sites in their above-linked post). In other words, this is a time period accustomed to year-over-year swings and fluctuations.

The number of global manufacturers that shipped goods to the US in the period also declined modestly, falling 4%, Panjiva indicates (compared with a 9% decline in 2010 and a 3% increase in 2009). However, the number of at-risk "significant" manufacturers does not appear to be increasing based on Panjiva's metrics, holding firm at 20% on what Panjiva describes as Watch List vendors (i.e., "Manufacturers that have suffered a 50% or greater decline in volume shipped to American customers in the most recent three month period, versus the same period a year ago").

There are many ways to use Panjiva data for analytics, including factoring in their Watch List suppliers as one potential indicator of rising risk in a supply base (especially in cases where credit and/or supplier risk scoring is not available or incomplete from traditional ratings authorities). But perhaps most interesting -- or at least enjoyable -- for us, is looking at Panjiva data not just to monitor trends among supplier shipments in absolute terms, but also to see which suppliers are shipping to which customers. It's not perfect -- companies on both sides of the buying/selling equation can hide between different trading company fronts -- but what Panjiva has done to surface supply risk and trade intelligence from US Customs and related import data remains as relevant and cool as ever.

- Jason Busch

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