Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.3 percent this month over the same time last year as consumers begin their holiday shopping, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. “Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations. Retailers had instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.”
Futures dropped 0.2 percent in London, trimming this year’s increase to 52 percent. U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly expanded for a second week with a gain of 614,000 barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday. The latest data on U.S. drilling from Baker Hughes Inc. is due Friday, after the number of active oil rigs increased by 82 in the eight weeks to Dec. 23.
“2016 was a dramatic oil year,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Markets. “2016 started very bearishly and ended very bullishly. 2017 is likely to be the opposite, but not quite as dramatic.”
Brent for March settlement dropped 9 cents to $56.76 barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange as of 11:24 a.m. local time. The February contract expired Thursday after losing 8 cents to $56.14. Total volume traded was about 63 percent below the 100-day average.
West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was up 5 cents to $53.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 29 cents to $53.77 on Thursday. Prices are up 45 percent this year.