1st Quarter 2017

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Tennessee Trade Report

by Steven G. Livingston | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
Tennessee first-quarter exports were up 3.9 percent from those a year ago.

At $8.129 billion, Tennessee first-quarter exports were up 3.9 percent from those a year ago. This was welcome news, given the declines of the past several quarters. However, the state's performance still lagged quite a bit behind the national average. Overall, American exports were up 7.5 percent. Tennessee ranked only 31st among the states in its export growth.

The primary reason the state could not match the nation's export growth was the sluggishness of several of Tennessee's largest export sectors. The state's largest single exported good, medical instruments, lost $30 million in exports in the first quarter, thanks to significant reductions in shipments to Brazil, Singapore, and Switzerland. Passenger vehicles, the second-largest Tennessee export, fell as well. Large losses in Saudi Arabia, China, and Mexico outweighed gains in Australia and Canada to produce a $20 million decline. The export of cell phones and associated parts also dropped by about $20 million. Shipments in this industry were quite volatile, reflecting some supply-chain shifts. The net loss was due to a steep fall in exports to Mexico, though exports to Hong Kong and the Philippines of these same products increased strongly.

These modest declines were joined by the deep decline in the shipment of electric auto batteries. Exports of these batteries fell by two-thirds, a $60 million dollar loss. (Almost all of this $60 million was in Japan or the U.K.)

The weakness of these industries was enough to take some of the shine off the gains made elsewhere. The largest dollar increase among major industries for the quarter was in the aircraft industry. Its exports grew from $252 million to $379 million, thanks to large purchases from the U.K., Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, and Tunisia. In percentage terms, though, it was the state's silicon producers that made the most dramatic gains. Exports of silicon rose from virtually nothing to $75 million. Almost all of these new exports went to Germany, Korea, Taiwan, or Japan. Cotton, too, had a very good quarter. Though Vietnam cooled off somewhat, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, and Mexico purchased substantially more cotton or cotton yarn than a year ago. Cotton exports were up over $60 million (a 20 percent gain) for the quarter.

Kraft paperboard, coloring dyes, mowers, pumps, and bulldozers, a rather eclectic assortment of goods, were among the other strong exporters for the quarter.