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Materials Outlook Reexamined For 2008: “Early Bird”

Issue U • January 2009

This is the “Early Bird” version of the Reexamined Outlooks. It is usually based on talking with most of the observers, but not all of them, and using some newly-released 2008 data, but not this year when even some 2007 data is not available. The specialized minerals and metals covered on this website all appear to be having an indifferent to bad year.

The demand and other statistics are being updated more frequently on Basics/Mines blog, replacing some of these issues.

The dimension stone outlook for 2008: Overall U.S. Dimension stone sales in 2008 appear likely to be down 8% from 365 (semifinal) in 2007 to 336 (advanced preliminary) for 2008. The biggest but probably the most hurting market sector in 2008 is granite countertops, the index for which has been down 9.5% from 2007 (observers indicate sales are likely to be down 12% from 2007). The Demand Index for Granite Countertops was 1066 in 2007, and 965 in 2008 (advanced preliminary). The granite and marble tile index in 2008 is down 8% from 2007. The Demand Index for Granite and Marble Tile was 473 in 2007 (final), and 434 in 2008 (advanced preliminary). Domestic monumental granite sales in 2008 are up 7% from 2007 (observers vary widely). Indiana limestone 2008 sales are down 7% from 2007, 2008 domestic slate sales down 10%, and 2008 sandstone sales are down 12% from 2007.

The general 2008 outlook for natural graphite looks unclear. The U.S. graphite import statistics January-September have been close to the same for 2006, 2007, and 2008. Otherwise, there is less data; the USGS 2007 graphite consumption statistics are not published yet. The GAN observers expect drops of 15% to 25% in auto-related uses (i.e., brake linings, powdered metals), and probably 5%-10% in steel-related uses (i.e. refractories). The GAN issue related to this "Early Bird" will have more information and possibly a different slant.

The 2008 indium outlook appears to be uncertain, probably more low-key than in recent years. The best end-using sector for sales in 2008 was for ITO-related uses (LCDs, flat-panel screens), which were level with 2007 for North America-Europe and much of the world, but up much more in the Far East. The big Christmas sales season is likely to be a disaster. Indium sales in 2008 for indium alloy-related uses are up 2% over 2007. The 2008 sales for the new indium end-use in photovoltaics (solar cells) multiplied itself two to four times in volume from 2007, but may not continue to grow as rapidly as had been expected because of getting whipsawed by the current economy and free-fall drop in crude oil prices.

The 2008 outlook for bismuth looks discouraging. January-September U.S. 2008 import data suggests a major drop in demand, but the 2007 USGS consumption data is not out yet to give a baseline. The price for bismuth metal has been trending downward during 2008; the 2008 monthly Customer Input prices for bismuth metal are on a new blog.

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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