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 from the year-ago period as retailers stock up for the all-important holiday season, a report showed on Tuesday.

U.S. ports are expected to handle 1.45 million 20-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in October, up 9.9 percent from the year-earlier period, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

One TEU represents one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

"Increased imports show that retailers have gauged the market and expect increased sales," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

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

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

U.S. ports handled 1.42 million TEU in August, the latest month for which numbers are available. That was up 6.7 percent from July and 3.3 percent from August 2011. Ports are expected to handle 1.49 million TEU in September, up 8 percent from last year.

Some retailers brought cargo into the country early this year because of the threat of a strike when the labor contract covering East Coast and Gulf Coast longshoremen was set to expire Sept. 30, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.

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

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

(Reporting By Dhanya Skariachan; editing by Jim Marshall)

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