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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- Nov. 19, 2020

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Nov. 19, 2020

Walmart eCommerce, Profits Soar; Smaller Carriers Losing Billions across the Globe; Slow Recovery of US Manufacturing; Ocean Container Shipping Rates Spiking



That's how much Walmart's ecommerce business grew in the quarter ending in October, according to the company's earnings release this week. That is quite a bit more than the 40% or so growth Amazon saw in its Q3 results, but Walmart is growing off a much smaller base, it is believed. Walmart does not yet release details of its ecommerce revenues or profits. The surge in ecommerce is clearly in part due to changes in consumer behavior due to lockdowns and the pandemic. Walmart said that instead of browsing store aisles, consumers are shipping purchases to their homes, getting groceries dropped off at their doors or picking up online purchases by the curbside. "We're convinced that most of the behavior change will persist beyond the pandemic," said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. The Walmart bottom line was strong too, with net income rising to $5.14 billion, or $1.80 per share, way up from $3.29 billion, or $1.15 a share, a year earlier.



$679 Billion

That is how much global freight carriers in aggregate are expected to lose in 2020, according to new research from the International Road Transport Union (IRU). The losses, IRU says, are hitting small and medium size trucking firms, which represent a high percentage of total carriers in the US and abroad, especially hard. Most of the small carriers "are struggling to pay their bills and this is a huge threat to the global economy," said IRU secretary general Umberto de Pretto. He further warned that without immediate government action, a large number of carriers will go bankrupt in the coming months, causing significant damage to supply chains,, therefore hitting the global economy hard. Only government assistance to prevent the crisis, IRU says, stating that cash grants so far have gone to large "national champions" in air or rail, rather than targeting the millions of smaller road transport operators who together move more goods and passengers.




That was the level in October of the manufacturing output index released this week by the Federal Reserve Bank, as it does each month. That was up one percentage point from September, and output is practically at the baseline year of 2012 (index = 100) – but that's now almost nine years later. Before the pandemic, the index was around 105, meaning US manufacturing is around five percent below those levels, though nicely up from the 83 score seen in April. The index was 3.9% below November 2019. Factory utilization improved again, rising a bit to 71.7%, versus the long run average of 78.2% between 1972 and 2019.



That is the rise in the cost to ship a 40-foot container from China to US West Coast versus the start of July, now up to $3,878 per container. Spot rates to ship a container from China to the US East Coast topped $4,750 this week, up 42% since July and a new record, according to the Freightos Baltic Global Container Index. What's going on? "The spike is driven by very high demand for container freight since July, driven by post-lockdown restocking, limited air-freight capacity, incremental demand for stay-home goods and PPE (personal protective equipment), and a severe shortage of containers," said Hua Joo Tan, container shipping market analyst at Liner Research Services. Volumes have been especially high for transpacific routes from Asia to the US, with container traffic up between10% to 20% versus last year, while container lines continue to limit sailings. Container shipping giant CMA CGM said this week that Chinese government officials have been putting pressure on container lines to put a ceiling on rates, worried the soaring costs will reduce demand for China exports.

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