3rd Quarter 2009

(Tennessee International Trade Report)

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The worst-hit export products were generally primary and intermediary goods used by foreign manufacturers. The state's paper and pulp producers, for example, lost 31% of their foreign sales in the third quarter. Apparel shipments declined by nearly 40%. Waste and scrap sales were down 40% as well, while exports of primary metal goods fell 33%. Cotton lost more than $100 million in exports over the quarter, 62% of its 2008 sales over the same period. Indeed, 11 of the state's top 100 commodity exports lost more than half of their exports for the quarter. Only that same number, 11, saw any increase in foreign shipments at all.

How long will this continue? As noted, October exports were down 6% from a year ago. This is the best monthly performance in a year. With better economic news seeping out from East Asia and elsewhere, signs are finally pointing up. Given Tennessee's heavy investment in transportation, chemicals, and medical instruments, however, we must await definitive signs of improved markets in these products before we can anticipate substantial improvement in the state's export picture.

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