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Nation's Biggest Port Shows Surprise Jump in Traffic

An unexpected jump in container traffic has been reported at the largest container port complex in the country.

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AP

The Long Beach and Los Angeles ports released preliminary figures for May today. Long Beach showed a 25 percent increase in container traffic from a year ago. Imports rose nearly 27 percent. Exports grew 15 percent, the highest level in two years.

Port officials say May was the sixth month in a row that imports and exports have grown, something that hasn't happened since 2006.

Next door at the Port of Los Angeles, May container traffic rose 20 percent compared with a year ago. During the first five months of 2010, total traffic was up more than 11 percent.

Perhaps most interesting is that so-called "empties" jumped in May. Empties are ships heading out from the port empty to be filled with goods from Asia and brought back to American store shelves.

At the Long Beach port, empties rose 35 percent in May, but at the Port of Los Angeles, they were up 58 percent. This could signal that retailers which cut inventory drastically during the recession are now planning to stock up this summer in time for back-to-school sales. Wal-Mart, in particular, has been busy restocking hundreds of products after customers complained that too many had been removed.