4th Quarter 2009

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tennessee trade-weighted dollar index graph


tennessee monthly exports graph


tennessee's leading trade partners graph

Tennessee International Trade Report

by Steven G. Livingston

Sizable increases in automotive and chemical exports are the reason for the state's superior performance.

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The steep drop in exports has ended, and the recovery has begun. Tennessee exports rose 7% last quarter, to $5.98 billion. This brings the state back to the level of its 2007 exports. In this respect, Tennessee is a bit ahead of the curve. National exports still fell a bit this past quarter, and they remain about 8% lower than they were in 2007. Sizable increases in automotive and chemical exports are the reason for the state's superior performance.

The revival of automotive exports is perhaps the biggest story of the quarter. The largest destination for these goods remains Canada, and its imports of cars grew by $50 million, trucks by $8 million, and internal combustion engines an astounding $70 million. (Shipments of the latter were virtually zero in 2008.) However, it was a dramatic return of the Middle Eastern market that really accounts for most of the gains in this industry. Car and SUV sales to Saudi Arabia grew by $85 million (to $117 million), enough to make that nation the state's third fastest growing market for the quarter. Car sales also expanded in Kuwait, although they declined in Oman and the U.A.E. The Tennessee auto industry's third big foreign destination, Mexico, was not quite as dynamic but at least held its own. Increased shipments of auto parts and aluminum plating were just about balanced by declines in car and compression engine exports.

The chemical sector turned in numbers very similar to that of the automotive sector, also growing by about $200 million for the quarter (to $907 million). About one-third of this growth was in Canada, where chemical shipments went from $77 to $136 million. The second biggest gain was racked up in the United Kingdom, where Tennessee chemical exports grew by $36 million. A significant portion of the latter gains were in radioactive chemicals. Chemical exports grew at least modestly to a number of other countries and across a number of specific chemicals. Chemical coloring agents and cellulose-related exports, in particular, had a very good quarter. The former grew by 44%, while the latter increased by 17% over the fourth quarter of 2008.

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