125_midyearThe recovery remains a bit slow for dimensional stone through the first six months of the year.



Want the half-full side of dimensional-stone imports for the first half of this year? OK – material values, for the most part, are above mid-2010 levels.

And the half-empty part? When it comes to tonnage, most stone categories are behind last year’s levels.

U.S. stone imports for 2011 remain a mixed bag. Shipments, along with the values attached to them, vary between countries on a monthly basis so far this year; a possible pattern for two months is dashed in a third, and abnormal high/low monthly data keeps popping up.

The overall message, unfortunately, is not good. While increases in value can put a positive spin on the market, the reductions in volume indicates that stone slab/tile consumption is low, or there’s a glut of materials in the chain of stone distributors, suppliers and fabricators.

Given the up-and-down of 2011 so far, though, there could be an upswing. The next three months – July through September – should provide a clearer picture on the stone market’s recovery.


The data for U.S. stone imports is collected from several sources and distributed through the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). The information isn’t available on a real-time basis; the USITC releases the numbers on all imported goods, from towels to travertine, approximately 40 days after the end of a month.

The June data arrived in early August. After posting the monthly StatWatch for June, it took a few days of peering at spreadsheets to see if any major adjustments occurred for previous months (there weren’t any) before running the totals, looking at the results ... and then running them again to be sure.

The numbers for granite in the first half of 2011 cause that pause in making any real judgments on the market, as the market seems to be running in different directions. Values for worked granite (cut slabs and tile) are at $464.2 million, up 9 percent from mid-2010 ... but the volume is down 7.2 percent, at 696,151 metric tons.

In actual shipments, all of the Big Four of granite – Brazil, China, India and Italy – show across-the-board losses. Brazil’s sector-leading 253,178 metric tons for January-June is a 4.4-percent drop from the same time last year, and India took a 5.7-percent slide to 163,180 metric tons this year. China took a slightly-larger tumble (-11.4 percent) with 177,031 metric tons by this June, and Italy hit the brakes (-46.6 percent) with 40,339 metric tons. (Italy’s large difference comes from an abnormally high May 2010 shipment; factoring that out, volume would’ve been roughly the same in both years.)