Import cargo at US ports seen rising as stores gear up for holidays

Oct 9 (Reuters) - Import cargo volume at major U.S.container ports is expected to rise 9.9 percent in October fromthe year-ago period as retailers stock up for the all-importantholiday season, a report showed on Tuesday.

U.S. ports are expected to handle 1.45 million 20-footEquivalent Units (TEU) in October, up 9.9 percent from theyear-earlier period, according to the monthly Global PortTracker report by the National Retail Federation and HackettAssociates.

One TEU represents one 20-foot cargo container or itsequivalent.

"Increased imports show that retailers have gauged themarket and expect increased sales," said Jonathan Gold, vicepresident for supply chain and customs policy at the NationalRetail Federation.

Last week, the trade group said it expected holiday sales torise 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year.

August, September and October are the three busiest monthsof the year as retailers bring goods into the United States forthe biggest selling season of the year.

U.S. ports handled 1.42 million TEU in August, the latestmonth for which numbers are available. That was up 6.7 percentfrom July and 3.3 percent from August 2011. Ports are expectedto handle 1.49 million TEU in September, up 8 percent from lastyear.

Some retailers brought cargo into the country early thisyear because of the threat of a strike when the labor contractcovering East Coast and Gulf Coast longshoremen was set toexpire Sept. 30, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.

The strike was averted when labor and management agreed tocontinue talks through Dec. 31.

The Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of LongAngeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the WestCoast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah,Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast; and Houston on theGulf Coast.

(Reporting By Dhanya Skariachan; editing by Jim Marshall)

((dhanya.skariachan@thomsonreuters.com)(+1 646 2236191)(Reuters Messaging: Follow me on Twitter: @DhanyaTweets))