The ever rising current account trade deficit with China is having some unintended consequences. Aside from the potential collapse of the dollar, now we have a new worry... too many surplus shipping containers.
According to MortgageNewsDaily:
America is buying so much merchandise from other countries, primarily China and selling so little back to them that shipping containers are actually becoming an environmental hazard. Apparently it is cheaper to manufacture new ones on the opposite side of the ocean than transport them empty back to where they originated. In port cities and areas around inland freight transit terminals hundreds of thousands of empty containers are piling up. The stacks, dozens of containers high, loom over the landscape and there are residential neighborhoods in their shadow where the sun sets an hour earlier than in the surrounding areas.
But, as always, entrepreneurs are finding new uses for boxes sitting in our shipping yards...modular housing. And some of the designs aren't half bad, as long as you don't know it's a giant metal box.
I wouldn't mind living in this...
but I'd probably pass on this...
The irony here shouldn't be lost on anyone. As a country, the US's manufacturing base is moving off-shore and the only thing most Americans have to show for it, besides a bunch of stuff from Wal-Mart and a rising debt load, is stacks and stacks of empty cargo containers. The average American family is spending themselves into poverty but the good news is that they'll have a place to live when they run out of credit and their houses are repossessed. So, thank you China for leaving your empty boxes here!
Anyway, the weakness in America's manufacturing base has been well chronicled by the Institute of Supply Management [ISM] Purchasing Manager's survey, which has been sinking since July 2006. However, it showed some life for the first time in April.
The ISM Purchasing Manager's survey is important because it has a high correlation with the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The fact that the ISM has been sinking for 12 months along with the slowing economy, made me question the sustainability of the market rally last year. However, the pick up in the ISM shows that the current stock rally might have some fundamental support. The economy could really be stronger than most analysts think. It's not just rising on the excess liquidity that has no other place to go right now.
So, hopefully, as manufacturing picks up, we'll be able to send some of those containers back to whence they came, full of stuff for the Chinese to buy. And the Dow will really have a reason to keep going up.