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Detailed Outlook for 2008: “Early Bird”

Issue T • April 2008

Please also see the new Basics/Mines blog for the most current updates.

The outlook for 2008 is generally for a mixed year, but mostly weaker than the outlook was at this time in 2007. The 2008 outlook for bismuth is extremely strong, for indium is strong, and for dimension stone is merely decent. The 2008 outlook for natural graphite is neutral.

The dimension stone outlook for 2008: Overall U.S. dimension stone sales in 2008 are expected to be much weaker than usual; the 2007 Overall Production-Demand Index was up only 3% from 2006. Most of the following are off a little from 2007: domestic granite monuments in 2008 are likely to be up 1% from 2007, slate (domestic) down 10%, Indiana limestone down 4%, and sandstone down 10% from 2007. Granite countertop sales in 2008 should be down 2% from 2007; the 2007 Granite Countertop Index was down 2% from 2006. According to our observers, countertop sales in 2008 are likely to be down 2% from 2007. Standard granite and marble tile sales should be up around 10% from 2007, especially for domestic marble tile aided by the continuing increases in ocean freight costs caused by crude oil prices; the 2007 Tile Index was up 14% from 2006.

The 2008 general outlook for natural graphite looks likely to be nearly the same as 2007, with overall sales likely to be level with 2007. The 2008 demand for graphite is likely to be down 5% from 2007 in the major end-use in graphite-containing refractories. The 2008 graphite demand in most other end-uses will be down from 2007, except for demand in the graphite foil-expanded graphite group, which will bounce back 10% from 2007, a down year.

Bismuth demand in 2007 was absolutely unprecedented, 2007 U.S. imports of bismuth metal were up 36% over 2006 (a good indication of a similar increase in bismuth consumption), and prices reached an all-time high (see Bismuth Advocate News). Bismuth demand in 2008 will be second-best only to 2007. The 2007 demand reflected large increases in consumption in Asia (China, Japan, Korea) and in the lead replacement market (additional applications are still being developed). Some new polymetallic mines being developed in Viet Nam, Canada, and Australia could help meet the burgeoning demand for bismuth. Prices have eased off some but are unlikely go below $8.50, which is more than double the pre-2006 long-time range.

Indium demand in 2008 should be not as strong as in many previous years, and will be met by the continuing shift in supply from Chinese sources to other ones, including more recycling. However, the demand for flat panel screens for TVs and laptops continues; worldwide ITO sales in 2008 should be up around 10%-15% from 2007 by volume, level with 2007 in North America and Europe but much higher in the Far East. Demand for indium alloys and solders in 2008 will be up 2% from 2007.

The next cover issue will be a pulse-taking on the 2008 outlook after the individual Detailed Outlooks, when we have 4 to 5 months of 2007 data.

For more detail see the specific commodity issues:

Dimension Stone Advocate News

Graphite Advocate News

Indium Advocate News

Bismuth Advocate News

Basics/Mines provides news and expertise on four mineral commodities, dimension stone, graphite, bismuth, and indium.

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