1st Quarter 2018

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Tennessee Trade Report

by Steven G. Livingston | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
Tennessee ranked 48th among the 50 states in export performance for the first quarter.

The year 2018 began on a very sour note. Tennessee's foreign shipments fell from $8.129 billion in the first quarter of 2017 to $7.949 billion in 2018. This was a drop of 2.2 percent, compared to a national gain of 8 percent. In fact, Tennessee was 48th of the 50 states in export performance. Only Michigan and Hawaii had worse quarters. What happened?

In a word, computers. Exports of computers dropped over $250 million from 2017. This was a 60 percent loss. Laptops were off by nearly $100 million, and larger computers declined by about the same amount. These losses were entirely in Canada. (In fact, computer exports were up modestly to the rest of the world.) Growth in other exports north of the border came nowhere near to making up the nearly $300 million loss in computer shipments and led to a near double-digit fall in the quarter's exports to Canada. The substantial decline in computers actually began last December, but this was the first quarter for which the fall clearly showed in the statistics.

Another large state export sector, medical instruments, also fared poorly. Its exports declined from $726 million to $662 million. This industry experienced a drop in all three of its largest markets, Europe, Japan, and China.
The auto industry was a wash. Car shipments were up; auto parts were down. Automotive engines, in particular, suffered a substantial decline in shipments. The increased car sales were in Canada. Russia and China both imported substantially more cars than a year previously! Those to China were electric. Even when it came to automobiles, though, it wasn't all good news. Automobile sales were off sharply in Australia and Korea. The losses in auto parts were primarily in Mexico and Spain.

That's the bad news. Several industries forged ahead. Cell phone equipment gained, cotton gained, and export of waste and scrap metal also posted strong numbers. The latter was almost entirely to Italy.