StatWatch: U.S. Stone Imports, December 2010

StatWatch is a snapshot of U.S. dimensional-stone imports, offering a summary and exclusive Stone Business analysis of data from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Comparisons are made mainly on an annual level to gauge market trends.

All figures give are for December 2010 (change from December 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).
Total: $79.7 million (8.53%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $33.0 million (9.0%)

Backfill: December becomes the middling month in granite value for the recovery year of 2010; while Brazil advances from the end of 2009, the increase fails to reach the 33-percent climb seen in November 2010. India makes a strong showing at $12.4 million in customs value to show a 51-percent hike from December 2009 – but it only moves the country into third place.

China again shows a small decline – two percent – with its $18.5 million in value. And, Italy, at $10.1 million, doesn’t move much at all (-0.4 percent). The surprise of last year remains Saudi Arabia, going from sub-$100,000 months in 2009 to a strong finish of $811,052 in December 2010.

156,213 metric tons (84.1%)
Sector leader: India @ 62,225 metric tons (499.8%)

Click to enlargeBackfill: Granite import values may be wishy-washy, but last December’s tonnage likely put a dent in U.S. docks. India dramatically reverses a second-half 2010 downward slide, sending more granite to the United States in December than in the previous four months combined. Brazil moves to #2 for the month, but its 42,123 metric tons are a 14.4-percent increase from December 2009.

China finishes a comparably weak second-half 2010 with 25,518 metric tons, down 2.9 percent from December 2009. Italy, meanwhile, posts its third-best month of 2010 with 20,174 metric tons, up 210.7 percent from the previous December.

Total: $15.2 million (-7.1%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $6.5 million (-17.4%)

Backfill: Last December proves to be a lumpy flight for marble’s import values, as Italy’s decline accounts for falling farther behind 2009’s tepid pace. Spain also records a significant drop – $1.4 million, down 32.4 percent – from December 2009, while Israel freefalls to $89,278, a 73.3-percent decline.

December 2010 also shows some high points, though, as China sends $3.9 million in worked-marble value, up 23.8 percent from the previous December. Turkey bumps up its marble imports by 23.9 percent to $1.2 million, and Greece finishes 2010 in decent fashion with $439,149, up 37.1 percent from December 2009.

Total: 14,125 metric tons (-0.8%)
Sector leader: China @ 5,309 metric tons (-1.5%)

Backfill: The lead for top worked-marble exporter to the United States changes hands again, as China ships 5,309 metric tons in December 2010. Sharp-eyed observers will also note that China increased worked-marble customs value while decreasing import volume, which means the country’s getting more for its stone at the end of last year.

Last December also finds few slouches as far as tonnage totals; Italy’s 3,652 metric tons offers a 1.6-percent increase while Turkey pumps up its shipments by 82.9 percent to 1,983 metric tons. Only Spain shows any major loss among the top exporters, with its 1,444 metric tons representing a 33.7-percent decline from December 2009.

$17.8 million (2.5%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $11.5 million (8.2%)

Backfill: December 2010 shows the shipment values declining from major exporters, save the one that matters – Turkey, since it controls more than two-thirds (by value) of the U.S. travertine-import market. China makes some positive noise, moving up 29 percent from December 2009 to 914,412 metric tons.

Mexico still lags behind 2009, with last December’s nearly $3.2 million representing a 9.3-percent drop. Peru also fails to exceed December 2009, with $954,870 showing a 6.9-percent decrease. Italy finishes an up-and-down year on the down side, with its $714,213 behind December 2009 by 36.7  percent.

Total: 28.281 metric tons (1.8%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 21,236 metric tons (1.9%)

Backfill: It’s not hard to see Turkey’s shipments to the United States keep near-exact pace with the total tonnage of travertine entering the country. For every four tons of travertine accepted at ports-of-entry, Turkey accounted for three of them in December 2010.

At 3,947 metric tons, the imports from Mexico in December 2010 mark the second-worst month of the year, but it still beats the end of 2009 by 1.7 percent. China manages a 59.5-percent boost to 976 metric tons; Peru’s 939 metric tons shows a 12.3-percent decline from December 2009. 

$6.3 million (-29.5%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $1.0 million (-33.7%)

Backfill: Even without the Lebanon Effect (and we’ll get to that soon enough), this category of limestone and other like stones remains a laggard for 2010. Long the leader, Italy may be surpassed soon by one of three other candidates with decent December 2010 showings: France ($835,645), China ($814,898) or Portugal ($779,273). China became the only one of the lot to post a gain from December 2009 at 36.1 percent.

Only two other countries with more than $200,000 of import values managed an annual gain in December 2010 – Mexico ($574,593; 22.7 percent) and Egypt ($342,491; 233.0 percent).

Total: 8,404 metric tons (-89.9%)
Sector leader: Portugal @ 1,549 metric tons (44.9%)

Backfill: The drastic drop-off is the result of the Lebanon effect; that Mideast country dominated the U.S. import market for other calcareous until last June, when it stopped shipping any of the stone here. However, even if Lebanon’s 71,483 metric tons in December 2009 is discounted, the imports in December 2010 still show a decline of 28.9 percent from the previous year.

The market’s not a total disaster in December 2010; besides Portugal’s upswing, the 1,298 metric tons from Italy offer a 77.6-percent gain from  the previous year, and Israel finds a place to pep up with 789 metric tons, a 163-percent improvement.

$4.6 million (11.9%)
Sector leader: China @ $1.9 million (13.3%)

Backfill: China widens its lead over India in dimensional, non-roofing slate during December 2010, although both fall short of the $2-million values each racked up in November 2010.

Behind slate’s Big Two, December 2010 data show that Brazil ($433,442, up 52.2 percent from December 2009) and the United Kingdom ($292,128, up 107.1 percent) continue to gain interest.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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