The nation's busiest seaport, Los Angeles, is on pace to have a record year in exports.
July exports were up 12.8%, to 165,135 containers from 146,369 in the same month a year ago.
"This is a robust total for exports," said Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield.
In 2010, the port set a record for exports with more than 1.8 million containers; it is on pace to surpass that this year.
But as usual, imports dominated the port in July, an indication of the nation's huge trade deficit. Even though imports for the month were down 3.2% — 357,668 containers, compared with 369,389 in July 2010 — there were more than twice as many imports as exports moving through Los Angeles last month.
Overall, L.A. moved 688,326 cargo containers in July, off 5.8% from a year ago. But the port moved nearly 4.5 million containers through the first seven months of 2011, an increase of 1.4% compared with last year.
The Port of Long Beach ranks second only to Los Angeles in cargo movement. Imports there were down 1.2% in July, to 290,314 containers from 293,878 a year earlier. Like Los Angeles, Long Beach's exports were up in July, but by less than 1%, to 126,968 containers. Overall, the port's numbers were down 2.5% compared with the previous July, to 572,926 containers from 587,881.
For the year, Long Beach's port is up 4.7% to 3.5 million containers.
"July's volumes do show that importers, particularly retailers, are taking a much more conservative approach to their holiday inventories," said Sean Strawbridge, managing director of trade relations and port operations in Long Beach. "But it's important to note 2010 was a very strong year for imports.
"So the fact that this year's volumes are holding steady at those levels is not bad news, given the general state of the economy."
The nation's biggest merchandise firms also remained hopeful. "Cargo numbers have been down this summer," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, "but retailers are still expecting a healthy holiday season."