How to keep track of US Inflation using SpaceKnow Supply Chain Indicators (SNN#14)

December 21, 2022

Summary: SpaceKnow has several indices to observe activity and demand at US ports. These indices lead us to believe that the congestion at ports is easing. 

The global economy was challenged by supply chain disruptions over the last two years. Congestion in ports caused delivery problems and product shortages. These supply-side bottlenecks were one of the reasons for high and persistent inflation. 

More recently, inflation has begun to stabilize at high levels. Forecasters are divided on where core inflation will end in 2023. SpaceKnow’s supply chain indicators can offer some insights.  

SpaceKnow has several indices to observe activity and demand at US ports. 

The port container level index tracks the area covered by containers in ports, and it can be interpreted as a capacity/congestion indicator. The index increased above the 5-year historical average level in the second half of 2020 and it remained there until the beginning of November 2022. Recently, the index broke its resistance above this level and it has reached the lowest level seen over the last two years. Interestingly, the index dropped at a time when seasonal congestion rises. In this environment, the economy will be more sensitive to shifts in demand or supply. 

Figure 1: Port Container Level Index

The port container activity index, which is a satellite activity index (SAI), tracks the changes in areas covered by containers as new imagery becomes available. Index activity levels are now almost at the average of 2017-2019. As congestion eases, activity at the ports picks up. The index has increased significantly since mid-August. 

Figure 2: Port Container Activity Index

Inland container indices are created to observe the congestion from an alternative point of view. These indices track the activity of container areas that are not directly connected to a port. After the container reaches a port, they are stored at these inland locations before the goods in the containers are transferred to the logistic centers to stock shelves. Figure 3 shows the Inland Container Level Index and it is estimated as a 30-day rolling sum.

Figure 3: Inland Container Level Index

In Figure 4, we observed a simultaneously falling Port Containers Index and rising Inland Containers Index in the last few months. This is a result of the ports emptying while more containers are being stored in the inland storage facilities. While to a certain extent puzzling, we believe this difference could be explained by empty containers piling up in the inland locations. The inland locations are presumably cheaper and therefore preferred for storing empty containers. The need to keep empty containers can be another sign of the overcapacity in the US logistics chain we mentioned in our last SNN. 

Figure 4: The comparison of Port and Inland Container Level Index

Bottom Line:

The US inflation rate is still high and it is too early to assume that the trend has changed. We observe that the congestion at ports is easing, which could have a direct impact on imported inflation. Even though we see significant signs of easing in our logistics data, we cannot yet call for a significant persistent slowdown. While it is one factor potentially pointing to an easing in inflation, other factors are pushing inflation higher. To sum up, we continue to believe that inflation will be driven by underlying wage pressures, short-term supply shortages in goods, and overall supply chain problems.  We will continue to monitor our supply chain and logistics indices carefully. 

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe using this link, and be the first to receive the next SpaceKnow Nowcasting Newsletter (SNN).

SpaceKnow provides satellite activity data. We research and monitor hundreds of thousands of locations, spanning different industries, to create the world’s most comprehensive activity datasets. Users can now gain a near-real-time, unbiased look at levels of activity for countries, companies, and commodities. Our customers include investors, traders, corporate strategists, economists, and governments.


This report is provided by SpaceKnow, Inc. (“SpaceKnow”) pursuant to the following terms and conditions:

Industry data and reports published by SpaceKnow (“SpaceKnow Reports”) and made available to paid subscribers and/or other recipients (collectively “Recipients”) are creative works of the mind achieved through algorithmic analysis of publicly available data and the information therein is proprietary to SpaceKnow and protected by copyright. Any copying, distribution or reproduction without the prior permission of SpaceKnow is strictly prohibited.

SpaceKnow Reports are confidential and nothing therein may be disclosed, reproduced, transmitted, distributed, sold, licensed, or altered, in whole or in part, without SpaceKnow’s prior written consent. SpaceKnow reserves the right to release to the public at any time the data and reports provided to Recipients. No rights in SpaceKnow Reports or any of the information contained therein are transferred to Recipients. Any misappropriation or misuse of the information in SpaceKnow Reports will cause serious damage to SpaceKnow and money damages may not constitute sufficient compensation to SpaceKnow; consequently, Recipients agree that in the event of any misappropriation or misuse, SpaceKnow shall have the right to obtain injunctive relief in addition to any other legal or financial remedies to which SpaceKnow may be entitled.

SpaceKnow Reports are based only upon its algorithmic analysis of publicly available data and do not use or rely upon any material non-public information (“MNPI”). The insights included in SpaceKnow Reports do not constitute MNPI or inside information and SpaceKnow is not an insider. SpaceKnow Reports (1) may contain opinions based on third party sources that are not independently verified for accuracy or completeness, (2) may contain forward- looking statements, which are identified by words such as “expects,” “anticipates,” “believes,” or “estimates,” and similar expressions, and (3) are current as of the date of publication but may contain information or statements that are subject to change without notice. SpaceKnow has no obligation to, and will not, update any information contained in SpaceKnow Reports. Actual outcomes could differ materially from those anticipated in SpaceKnow Reports. As a result, the use of SpaceKnow Reports is at Recipients’ own risk.

SpaceKnow and its owners, affiliates and representatives are not (1) investment advisers, commodity trading advisers, broker-dealers, financial analysts, financial planners, or banks, (2) compensated for providing investment advice, (3) registered or licensed with any regulatory body in any jurisdiction as investment advisers, commodity trading advisers, financial planners, broker-dealers, or in any other capacity (including, without limitation, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”), the U.S. Financial Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), or their equivalents in non- U.S. jurisdictions), and do not recommend the sale or purchase of securities or commodity interests, or (4) licensed or able to provide investment advice or respond to individual requests for recommendations to purchase or sell any securities or commodity interests. No regulatory body in any jurisdiction (including the SEC, CFTC, FINRA, or a regulatory body of any state or any non-U.S. jurisdiction) has endorsed SpaceKnow or the contents of SpaceKnow Reports or the accuracy, adequacy, safety, reliability, usefulness, quality or legitimacy of any information provided to subscribers in SpaceKnowReports. SpaceKnow Reports are not intended to constitute investment advice. SpaceKnow is not an investment adviser within the meaning of Section 202(a)(11) of the U.S. Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended, and is not a commodity trading adviser within the meaning of Section 1(a)(12) of the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act. SpaceKnow does not provide investment advisory, portfolio management or financial planning services. The analyses, forecasts, metrics, samples, estimated figures, trends, figures, tables, graphs, projections and other forms of data that may be contained in SpaceKnow Reports do not represent or contain any recommendations to buy or sell any security or any financial products and should not be relied upon as the basis for any transactions in securities.

SpaceKnow Reports are for informational, promotional, educational or evaluation purposes only. Any information contained in SpaceKnow Reports constitutes the opinion or forward-looking statement of individuals and is provided without any representation or warranty of any kind. Neither SpaceKnow nor its directors, officers, employees, agents or representatives shall have any responsibility to you or any third party for the accuracy or completeness of any information provided in any SpaceKnow Report.

Should you have any questions, please contact us at

Stay light years ahead of the competition.

Interested in: