January 30, 2008 / 2:24 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. downturn hits Panama canal trade in 4th qtr

PANAMA CITY, Jan 30, (Reuters) - Trade through the Panama Canal dipped in the last three months of 2007 amid a downturn in the U.S. economy and high oil prices, canal officials said.

The tonnage passing through the canal dropped 2 percent to 79.0 million PC/UMS tonnes from 80.6 million PC/UMS tonnes in the same quarter in 2006.

PC/UMS is Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System, which gauges the total net volume of the ships.

The number of ships transiting the canal was also down in the same period, falling 1.4 percent to 3,518.

Canal officials say the figures point to a drop in the volume of manufacturing exports to the United States, in response to slowing consumer demand.

“Soaring oil prices and a general economic downturn, including the U.S. housing crisis, the credit crunch and the dollar (weakness) have impacted global production and trade,” said Rodolfo Sabonge, vice president for research and market analysis at the Panama Canal Authority, said late on Tuesday.

The 94-year-old canal is the principal shipping route between China and the eastern seaboard of the United States. (Reporting by Andrew Beatty; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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