Consumer goods drive record in seaborne imports to U.S. in August, and medical test kits may have peaked, report finds

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Seaborne imports to the U.S. set a record in August and were up 5.9% from the same period a year ago, according to a new report from Panjiva, the supply-chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Seaborne imports surpassed 2.7 million 20-foot equivalent units, a measurement of cargo capacity, for the first time, the report found. The trend was driven by demand for consumer products during the pandemic, with imports of discretionary products up 16.1% and staples up 34.9%, driven by food and personal-care shipments.

But there are also signs of an uptick in industrial demand, where imports rose 4.4%. That number reflects an 82.7% rise in shipments of agricultural equipment by Deere & Co. DE, +2.51%  and Japan’s Kubota Corp. 6326, +1.12% KUBTY, +1.19%,  as well as an 8.2% decline in construction machinery, among others.

Deere, headquartered in Moline, Ill., has suppliers in Germany and Japan, according to FactSet.

“A similar pattern can be seen in supplies, with electrical components up by 9.6% and building products down by 2.9%,” Panjiva said in the report.

See: U.S. trade deficit surges 18.9% in July

Imports of medical-test-kit supplies needed for the pandemic fell in August, the report found, and may have peaked in June. Imports of testing kits alone were down 35.1% in August from a year ago, and were down 11.6% compared with July, after a surge in June.

There was a significant decline in test-kit shipments by Abbott Labs ABT, +2.88%, which fell 72.7% in August from July, and Roche Holding AG ROG, -1.03%, which fell 50% from July. Imports linked to Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +1.65%  fell the least, at just 3.3%.

Abbott, based in Abbott Park, Ill., near Chicago, has a supply chain that includes facilities in India, Vietnam and Israel, according to FactSet, while New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson’s includes a Japan location.

Abbott in August struck a $750 million deal with the Trump administration to supply it with 150 million of the company’s rapid-response COVID-19 antigen tests.

See:Here’s what to know about Abbott’s 15-minute COVID-19 test

Shipments of treatment supplies, including ventilators, fell 13.3%. Products in the protection, diagnostics and treatment category fell 13% in July from June.

Read also:Fed’s Beige Book says U.S. economy improved in August but gains ‘modest’

The report also looked at supply chains for telecom companies and found Ericsson ERIC.A, -0.94%   ERIC, +2.57%  and Samsung 005930, +1.37%  may have a trade-policy edge over Nokia NOK, +0.97% NOKIA, -1.21%  in 5G.

See also: The pandemic revealed the cracks in U.S. manufacturing. Here’s how to fix them.

“Nokia’s sourcing from China may prove to be a challenge, with 84.8% of U.S. seaborne imports linked to the firm coming from China in the 12 months to July 31,” said the report. “For Samsung Electronics and Ericsson the ratio is much lower. In Ericsson’s case it was just 10.8%, with a further 52.7% coming from Mexico.”

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