Maersk Expects Asia-Europe Trade Growth to Stay until February

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Maersk Line, the world's biggest container shipping company, said demand for trade on the Asia-Europe route is expected to grow until Lunar New Year in February as Chinese manufacturers produce and export more.

Imports into China have also helped increase demand as raw materials are shipped to Asia's largest economy for final assembly while local consumers increase spending, Tim Smith, head of north Asia operations for Maersk Line, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong today.

A year-end surge in demand also prompted the container line, owned by A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, to put some unused ships into service after idling 21 percent of its fleet last year, Smith said. Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Hanjin Shipping Co. were among carriers that parked some of their ships in the fourth quarter as freight rates fell on excess capacity and a slump in demand from debt-stricken Europe.

"In December, we saw nice uptick in volume running up to the year-end, and we expect that to continue into Chinese New Year," Smith said. "We had too much cargo in the last few weeks that we had to roll containers back to sailings."

Chinese production and retail sales topped estimates in November, while industrial companies' profits expanded for a third straight month. The government is spending more on infrastructure projects, including adding more rail lines and roads, to help boost the economy. …