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U.S. Apparel Imports Fall, Exports Rise in May

Apparel imports fell in May compared to the same month last year, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showing the second monthly decline since February. After surging 2.2% in April, total apparel imports (on a CIF basis) were $6.7 billion in May, a 2.4% drop from May 2013’s $6.8 billion. However, apparel imports are expected to have surged in June due to fears of an impending dockworker strike in California, so we expect to see a reversal of this trends next month.

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Total imported goods and services gained 1.8%, primarily due to an increase in capital goods imports and automotive vehicles and parts. These were somewhat offset by a decrease in imports of industrial supplies and materials.

China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia were the top sources of U.S. apparel in the month, at $1.9 billion, $603 million, $398 million, and $388 million, respectively. Imports from Vietnam grew 10.1% over May last year, while imports from the other three fell on a dollar basis in the month. On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth slowed to 2.3% from April’s 3.2% rate of increase.

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Apparel exports rose by 5.2% to $492 million, on top of an impressive 5.7% increase in April, and outpacing overall goods and services export growth of 3.8%.

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On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports picked up by 3.9% in May. Canada is the biggest market for U.S. apparel exports, followed by Mexico, the U.K., Japan and Honduras. Apparel exports to Australia have grown by 12.7% to $42.8 million so far this year, while those to Germany have grown by 25 percent to $41.5 million (making it one of the top 10 destinations for U.S. apparel exports) and apparel exports to the Netherlands have dropped by 16 percent.

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