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U.S. Containerized Exports Fall Off The Chart

"Many of our major trading partners are experiencing stalled or slowing economies, and the strength of the US dollar versus other currencies is making US goods more expensive in the export market." That's how the Cass/INTTRA Ocean Freight Index report explained the phenomenon.

What happened is this: The volume of US exports shipped by container carrier in July plunged 5.8% from an already dismal level in June, and by 29% from July a year ago. The index is barely above what it was in fiasco month March, which had been the lowest in the history of the index going back to the Financial Crisis.

The index tracks export activity in terms of the numbers of containers shipped from the US. It doesn't include commodities such as petroleum products that are shipped by specialized carriers. It doesn't include exports shipped by rail, truck, or pipeline to Mexico and Canada. And it doesn't include air freight - a tiny percentage of total freight. But it's a measure of export activity of manufactured and agricultural products shipped by container carrier.

Overall exports have been weak. But the surge in exports of petroleum products and some agricultural products have obscured the collapse in exports of manufactured goods. For now, the currency war waged by all the other major economies catches much of the blame:

The strength of the U.S. dollar against other currencies accounts for a significant part of the drop because of the relative price advantage our competitors have. There is concern that U.S. sellers-especially suppliers of agriculture products and food products such as meats-may have lost customers for good.

That's the goal of a currency war. But wait... the dollar began to strengthen last year, while containerized exports have been dropping since 2012, when it was the Fed that waged a currency war against other economies, and when it was the dollar that was losing its value. So there are other reasons - long-term structural reasons unrelated to the dollar.

And some of them the report pointed out: