Both sources agree the remainder of 2009 is likely to see acontinuation of year-over-year declines. Thomas M. Zygmunt, whomanages the Cass index, notes the index has dropped in November andDecember for the last three years and says there is little reasonto expect the pattern to change now. Port Tracker, released Nov.23, forecasts that volume for October, traditionally the peak monthof the year, will come in 15% percent below last year's level,while November's will be 11% down. However, it predicts December'slevel will be even with last year's level and January's will fallonly 3%. The organization reports that September, the most recentmonth for which actual numbers were available, saw a 3% drop fromAugust and 16% drop from September '08.

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But both Cass and the NRF also anticipate a positive shift inthe near future. In Zygmunt's opinion, "The (October) decline mightbe more a reflection of the past than a window on the future."Meanwhile, IHS Global Insight economist Paul Bingham observes, "Thesecond half of 2009 has continued to see declines from 2008'slevels, but not as large as we saw during the first half of thisyear. These 'less bad' numbers are evidence that the industry isseeing early signs of recovery."The NRF projects a February cargototal of 973,872 20-foot-equivalent-units (TEUs), a 16% increaseover February '09. March is forecast at 1.02 million TEUs, a 5%increase over March '09. Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president forsupply chain and customs policy, says of the projected Februaryreversal, "This could be the turnaround we've been waiting to seefor a long time. There's not enough data yet to establish a cleartrend, but we're hopeful that this is a sign of recovery."

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The Cass index Cass is based on the expenditures and shipmentsof the company's clients. Last year, Cass audited about 26 millionshipments representing roughly $17.5 billion in shipperexpenditures. Port Tracker covers container import activity at nineUS ports: Los Angeles/Long Beach; Oakland, CA; Seattle; Tacoma, WA;Houston; New York/New Jersey; Hampton Roads, VA; Charleston, SC;and Savannah, GA.

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