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The seasonality of Chinese imports

Does Santa Claus shop in China?

The FRED Blog has discussed the seasonality of food prices, labor markets, interest rates, and e-commerce. So, perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that there are also seasonal ups and downs for some import flows.

The FRED graph above shows two data series produced collaboratively by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis: the monthly U.S. dollar value of goods imported from China (in green) and from Canada (in red). This price does not include import duties, freight, insurance, and other charges related to bringing the merchandise into the U.S.

The repeating up-and-down monthly pattern of U.S. imports from China contrasts with the comparatively steadier pattern of U.S. imports from Canada: Many Chinese goods arrive at U.S. ports and shipping centers in October, while far fewer do in February and March; Canadian goods, in comparison, arrive in fairly similar numbers throughout the year.

The data don’t offer a breakdown by type of imported good, so we can’t say if the Chinese goods are available for purchase only in the latter part of each year. But the timing of the imports is just ahead of the busiest retail season of the year, the Christmas holiday; that suggests these are consumer goods likely to be purchased as gifts. Perhaps Santa Claus prefers to shop in China rather than Canada. But we’ll need to do more research on that.

How this graph was created: Search for and select “U.S. Imports of Goods by Customs Basis from China.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “U.S. Imports of Goods by Customs Basis from Canada.” To change the graph type and style of the series use the “Format” panel.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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