Tennessee Trade Report 3rd Quarter 2016

Tables and Graphs

Exports and Changing Markets

Tennessee's Largest Markets

Tennessee's foreign shipments have now fallen each month for eight consecutive months.

Tennessee exporters faced yet another tough quarter, as state exports fell nearly four percent to $7.755 billion. This was a loss of some $320 million over the same period in 2015. Unfortunately, the state's performance was even poorer than the nation's. Total American exports fell a bit over two percent for the quarter. Tennessee's foreign shipments have now fallen each month for eight consecutive months, the second longest period of monthly declines since we began tracking state exports in 1990.

The fall was not global. Most Asian markets were at least in the black for state exporters, with solid gains in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and most of the ASEAN countries, including the largest, Singapore. Exports to Japan were down but barely so. Shipments to Japan fell "only" three million dollars, from $442 million to $439 million. Both the UK and the Euro zone also were net positive. State exports to the euro countries crossed the billion-dollar mark, a gain of about $70 million from the previous year.

In percentage terms, the UK was even better. Tennessee's shipments to Britain were up 16% for the quarter (to $270 million), making it one of the best of the state's larger global markets. Finally, Canada eked out a small 2% gain, as the state's quarterly exports held above the $2 billion mark.

The losses were elsewhere, and they were pretty sizable. Exports to South America dropped by more than $100 million, nearly one-quarter of Tennessee's 2015 third-quarter shipments to that region. Losses were concentrated in Brazil and Chile, the state's two largest markets on that continent. Closer to home, shipments to Mexico declined 13%, a loss of more than $150 million. In two opposite corners of the world, Australia and Africa, state exports were down about $50 million dollars each. (Australia, by the way, buys more than twice as many goods from Tennessee as does the entire continent of Africa.)

But we've saved the worst until last. Exports to the Gulf States dropped an astonishing 44%, a loss of $160 million. Most of this was in the United Arab Emirates, the state's poorest-performing market of any size. Exports there were off more than $100 million, almost all of it automobiles.

Sectorally, the biggest losses were suffered in the automotive sector. Car exports dropped by $60 million, and auto parts were off $64 million. As noted, this was mostly due to the large losses in the Middle East. Canada and China, on the other hand, both saw increased shipments of Tennessee-made autos. Computer sales fell by more than $100 million, with losses concentrated in Mexico and China. Medical goods were down as well, albeit more modestly. Chemicals, artificial filaments, television equipment, and whiskey were other sectors that experienced significant headwinds over the quarter.

However, it was not bad news everywhere. The cell phone industry, in particular, had a good quarter thanks to strong sales in Hong Kong and other Asian countries. Silicon shipments grew dramatically, from virtually zero to over $50 million. The big markets were Taiwan, Germany, Korea, and Japan. Finally, Kraft paperboard exports grew by one-third from 2015.

This was not a good quarter for many state exporters. The near-term future is not promising, unfortunately. The slowdown in Latin America continues, and growth has declined in China as well. On top of this, the strengthening dollar is creating additional headwinds and headaches for Tennessee's businesses. We can only hope that things turn around more quickly than expected. US November exports were up from a year ago. Though Tennessee's suffered a small decline, it was an improvement over the previous seven months. That is not much of a silver lining, however.

Exports to the Gulf States dropped
an astonishing 44%, a loss of
$160 million.