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Detailed Outlook For 2009: “Early Bird”

Issue V • July 2009

The outlook for 2009 is for a catastrophic year according to 2008 statistics and early 2009 statistics, and merely a very bad year according to the observers.  This issue is very late, mostly because some important observers were very late, but there is an advantage in that it allows examination of some early 2009 numbers.  You may not want to.  The 2009 outlook for each: for bismuth is for a nearly nonexistent demand, for indium is very weak, and for dimension stone is catastrophe (statistics) or very bad (observers).  The 2009 outlook for natural graphite is similarly bad.

The dimension stone outlook for 2009:  Overall U.S. dimension stone sales in 2009 are expected to be even worse than 2008; the 2008 Overall Production-Demand Index was down 10% from 2007.  Most of the following are off from 2008: domestic granite monuments in 2009 are likely to be down 3% from 2008, slate (domestic) down 4%, Indiana limestone down 3%, and sandstone down 10% from 2008.  Granite countertop sales in 2009 should be down substantially; the 2008 Granite Countertop Index was down 11% from 2007 (a very preliminary 2009 Index was down 43% from 2008).  According to our observers, countertop sales in 2009 are likely to be down 5% (average stone) to 20% (high-end stone) from 2008.  Standard granite and marble tile sales for 2009 should be down around 18% from 2008; the 2008 Demand Index for Granite and Marble Tile was down 10% from 2007 (a very preliminary 2009 Index was down 34% from 2008).

The 2009 general outlook for natural graphite looks bad; U.S. imports showed that 2008 demand was about the same as 2007 but 2009 looks likely to be down 30% from 2008, with overall sales likely to be about the same.  The 2009 demand for graphite is likely to be about half 2008 in the major end-use in graphite-containing refractories.  The 2009 graphite demand in most other end-uses will be down 25% to 30% from 2008.

Bismuth demand in 2009 is likely to be absolutely unprecedented, but in the opposite direction from 2007: almost straight down.  The USGS just-released U.S. 2007 consumption number was 2,650 tonnes.  It could be almost a year before the 2008 number is released, so in the interim, U.S. imports of bismuth metal can at least suggest it might be down 37% in 2008 from 2007, and 2009 down 63% from 2008.  Certainly hard to believe; such a demand drop would have to be spread among all the end-uses.  The stronger Obama Administration emphasis on the environment and on sustainability, i.e. the lead- replacement market for bismuth, is one of the few rays of hope for the bismuth outlook for 2009.  Prices have eased off and are now (January 2009) $7.50 to $8.50 per pound (NY Dealers), and the monthly Customer-Input Price for Bismuth continues to decline in 2009 (see blog for Customer-Input Prices).

Indium demand in 2009 should be quite bad overall, except for solar cells; nothing like many previous years.  The demand for flat panel screens for TVs and laptops is much weaker; worldwide ITO sales in 2009 should be down around 30% from 2008 by volume, although close to level with 2008 in North America and Europe.  Demand for indium for solar cells is quite small but should double in 2009 over 2008.  Demand for indium alloys and solders in 2009 will be down, probably substantially, from 2008; the observers vary widely.

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

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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