StatWatch: Stone Imports, November 2010

The following is an exclusive Stone Business analysis of data released Jan. 10, 2011, by  the U.S. International Trade Commission. All figures give are for November 2010 (change from November 2009 amounts in parentheses). “Worked” stone is material that’s shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished (at least once, one side).

$81.4 million (27.3%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $37.5 million (51.3%)

Backfill: Granite import values in November remain well below the highs of July and August, where totals tickled the $100 million mark. Brazil remains the driver of worked granite’s recovery; China, in second at $16 million for November 2010, improved from the same time in 2009 by a paltry 1.5 percent.

Saudi Arabia’s import values remains well below the Big Four (Brazil, China, India, Italy) but continues to be the surprise of 2010, going from $25, 466 in January to $995,098 in November – its second-best month of the year.

109,706  metric tons (47.8%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ 58,162 metric tons (87.2%)

Backfill: Before breaking out the hats and horns for a great November, it’s fair to note that the comparison – November 2009 – was one of the five lowest months for granite tonnage in the past five years. And, this November’s totals broke a seven-month string of 125,000+ metric tons received.

November, despite its lowered totals, still remains respectable. Of the Big Four, China shows some consistency at 22,238 metric tons, a 9.8-percent increase from November 2009. Saudi Arabia also remains impressive with its 2010 granite volume, going from 20 metric tons in January to 1,263 metric tons in November – again, its second best month of the year.

$15.8 million (-1.3%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $8.4 million (9.3%)

Backfill: November would look a lot lousier if Italy hadn’t picked up from a bad October, when it dipped to $4.8 million. Of the three other countries that posted import values of more than $1 million, only one shows a gain from November 2009: Spain, up 13.9 percent at $1.4 million.

China, meanwhile, shuffles down 10.6 percent to $2.8 million, and Turkey slips 8.8 percent to $1.3 million. Farther down the import chain, Greece’s $398,171 makes a bang-up gain of 109.9 percent from November 2009, while Brazil jumps 131.3% with its $146,265. Israel takes the largest hit, with its $133,663 cutting a 44.4-percent decline.

12,957 metric tons (-0.3%)
Sector leader: Italy @ 4,420 metric tons (18.1%)

Backfill: Italy stretches out its lead on China for number-one in U.S. worked-marble import tonnage; it’s the first time since April 2009 that Italy’s held the top spot for two months in a row. China, meanwhile, drops 17.6 percent from November 2009 totals with its 3,404 metric tons.

Admittedly, 0.3 percent isn’t much of an overall monthly gain from the same time in 2009, but any good news is welcome news. The other two major exporters to the United States help to keep the positive trend afloat: Turkey with 1,858 metric tons (+6.1 percent) and Spain’s 1,631 metric tons (+23.5 percent).

Total: $19.0 million (5.2%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $12.0 million (3.0%)

Backfill: With one exception, the major exporters to the United States made some peppy gains from November 2009, as Italy’s $1.2 million shows a 13.9-percent gain, and Peru makes a 30.1-percent jump with $890,450. China does even better, climbing 54.2-percent from November 2009 with $739,932.

The downer is with Mexico, although its $3.6 million only trails November 2009 totals by 1.4 percent. And while China’s November figures easily outpace the same time in 2009, the numbers also represent a major drop from October 2010’s $1.5 million.

32,291 metric tons (-3.0%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 22,520 metric tons (-14.1%)

Backfill: Turkey maintains its two-thirds share of travertine tonnage into the United States in November 2010, but increased shipments from other countries offset the Turkish decline from 2009. China takes an immense step up – as in 611.5 percent – with its 2,967 metric tons in November 2010; Peru, operating farther down the scale, still boosts its U.S. shipments by 17.3 percent to 836 metric tons.

Mexico, meanwhile, posted its worst month since February, but November 2010’s total of 4,608 metric tons still edged November 2009 by 1.9 percent.

$7.3 million (-25.3%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $1.6 million (-15.4%)

Backfill: Francophiles can gloat in November 2010; of all the countries shipping more than $300,000 of other calcareous to the United States, only France ($659,285) beat its numbers (by 11.4 percent) from the previous November. Italy sways back from its serious swoon in October 2010 by adding almost $1 million in value during November, but that fell behind 2009 by 15.4 percent.

Portugal takes the biggest beating in November 2010; its $716,176 in value is a 51.8 percent decline. China doesn’t fare much better, dropping 32.4 percent with its $808,828. Spain slows the slide somewhat at 7.9 percent with $753,177 in value.

10,661 metric tons (-74.2%)
Sector leader: France @ 2,093 metric tons (513.8%)

Backfill: Let’s face it – this category will be the Black Hole of Stone Statistics with the absence of Lebanon, which controlled more than two-thirds of other calcareous arriving on U.S. docks until June 2010, when it abruptly stopped shipping the stone. Period.

As it is, the market isn’t all that great; saw out Lebanon’s shipments, and November 2010 tonnage would still be 41.5-percent behind the previous year. Egypt goes better than France with its improvement from November 2009 – 862.4 percent with 1,742 metric tons – but other stalwarts such as Portugal and China decline by 60.6 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively.

$4.9 million (28.9%)
Sector leader: China @ $2.0 million (21.3%)

Backfill: The market for dimensional, non-roofing slate seems to be picking up; India’s import value for U.S. shipments in November 2010 increases by 34 percent from the previous year, and comes in only $19,000 under China’s total.

The United Kingdom (up 225.2 percent from November 2009) and Brazil (up 142.3 percent) stage a closer race for third place, with the former’s $277,100 barely edging the latter’s $277,049.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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