StatWatch February 2011: Short Month, Smaller Numbers

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. Analysis is made on import figures of the latest month available.

All figures give are for February 2011 (change from February 2010 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: $51.4 million (8.0%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $18.4 million (26.5%)

Backfill: Sharp-eyed readers of StatWatch online will see February’s performance as a major dip from January 2011’s $73.7 million – but February always tends to show a decline from the first month of the year. It’s winter, construction work is slow … and the second month is also the shortest.
Granite’s big four made some progress between the Februaries, with China ($15.6 million, up 4.4 percent from 2010) and Italy ($5.7 million, up 4 percent) showing an uptick. India, meanwhile, comes in at $8.4 million, down 10.5 percent from the previous February.

Total: 59,115 metric tons (-40.8%)
Sector leader: Brazil @  21,491 metric tons (20.5%)

Backfill: So why does February look like a disaster as far as granite slab/tile tonnage? The culprit’s India; February 2010 accounted for 53,222 metric tons, marking the country’s second-best month of the year. This February, India’s U.S. shipments are 10,540 metric tons – an 80.2-percent drop-off.
Italy didn’t fare very well either this February, marking a 13.8-percent decline from 2010 at 4,049 metric tons. The good news came from the top two – Brazil, as the sector leader, and China bumping up volume by 3 percent to 19,328 metric tons.
Remember Canada, the wunderkind of this January at 21,139 metric tons? Advance one month, and the shipments fall to a regular 894 metric tons.

Total: $11.4 million (6.3%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $4 million (8.6%)

Backfill: As far as import values, marble is getting a sunny start to 2011; of the four top importing countries, three of them (Italy, China, Turkey) show improvement from last year. China’s $3 million in February 2011 is 9.3-percent up from the same time last year; Turkey gets a huge bump-up of 40 percent at $1.5 million.
That leaves one market leader – Spain – with a different tale. The February 2011 value of $1.2 million leaves a 9.4-percent shortfall from 2010. The remainder of the marble-importing countries offer mixed results – Portugal and Greece are up, while India, Egypt, Israel and Pakistan are down – but the top four represent 84 percent of U.S. worked-marble shipment value.

Total: 11,310 metric tons (14.5%)
Sector leader: China @ 4,664 metric tons (24.8%)

Backfill: No buts or howevers to qualify this category; marble slab/tile tonnage coming across U.S. ports of entry improves overall, and for the four-biggest supplying countries, from February 2010. China maintains its lead, and Italy (2,208 metric tons, up 15.8 percent) keeps its second-place standing.
Turkey, meanwhile, shows the biggest gain – 29.9 percent – with its 1,773 metric tons in February 2011, and may show a serious challenge to Italy for the second spot. Spain’s 1,631 metric tons show a slight 2.6 percent raise from last year.

Total: $18.5 million (-3.8%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $12.6 million (-0.3%)

Backfill: When changes in statistics are barely noticeable – as with Turkey’s less-than-a-percent dip – one term for defining this is frictional. Another that’s a lot less scientific is running in place. In other words, there’s not much happening.
The big changes come later in the order; second-place Mexico slips 4.8 percent from last year with $3.7 million in February 2011 import values. However, that’s up from January 2011’s $2.6 million, which could portend some welcome gains in coming months. China’s going the other way, with the $795,864 from February representing a 26.8-percent drop from last year – and a big dip from January 2011’s $1.1 million.

Total: 29,613 metric tons (-11.9%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 22,595 metric tons (-16.9%)

Backfill: It’s time for the hoary old cliché of mixed bag here, as the tallies from the docks indicate … well, confusion. Turkey’s massive presence drives the whole sector down, but only one other country among the leaders shows a decline from February 2010: Peru, down 15.2 percent at 556 metric tons.
Mexico’s going the other way, with a 3.4-percent increase from last year at 4,184 metric tons (and a nice increase from January 2011’s 3,235 metric tons). China ramps up dramatically with its 1,662 metric tons translating to a 76.6-percent increase from the previous February – as well as a 400,000 metric-ton bump from January 2011’s tally. 

Total: $5.8 million (1.2%)
Sector leader: China @ $1.1 million (44.6%)

Backfill: Compare those gains from February 2011 in other calcareous import values – the entire sector and the new leader, China – and you’ll understand the wild ride taken by the market. Portugal, for example, swings into a strong second at $712,526 (up 21.8 percent from February 2010) while Italy tumbles from first to third with $654,559 and a 48.4-percent drop from last year. Spain’s $582,732 marks a 133.2-percent gain from a year ago, while Turkey takes a 37.4-percent header at $430,365.
Just where this category is headed remains unclear in the value category. While overall values are up from a year ago, the February 2011 totals are significantly lower than the $7.5 million posted last month. It’s interesting that out of the top seven countries in January 2011, only one – China – shows an increase one month later.

Total: 16,683 metric tons (-43.9%)
Sector leader: Mexico @ 9,814 metric tons (2,365.8%)

Backfill: Welcome to the funhouse created by Lebanon, a that country’s shipments of other calcareous flooded the market for several years – and then, last May, the Lebanese stone quit coming. The result is a mess where market leaders pop up as randomly as lotto balls at a drawing. In February, the top supplier is Mexico, and the massive growth percentage is correct; a year ago, shipments totaled only 347 metric tons.
It’ll take a few more months until the Lebanon Effect, along with a couple of abnormal totals from other countries, clear the system and make the market situation clearer.  Until then, it’s baffling.

Total: $4 million (8.3%)
Sector leader: China @ $1.8 million (42.7%)

Backfill: China continues to outpace its slate rival, India, which sees its import values drop 22.5 percent from February 2010 to $1.3 million. It’s still a long way down – more than an million dollars – to third-place Brazil and its $325,539 (which represents a rare, if very small, drop of 0.3 percent from last year).

Emerson Schwartzkopf

©2011 Western Business Media Inc.

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