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Rubber trade market begins year with rising deficit

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WASHINGTON—The rubber product trade picture for 2014 mirrored much of how 2013 played out—with a rising deficit.

The shortfall for January rose 7.1 percent to $1.03 billion, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Exports fell 5 percent to $787.4 million, while imports gained 1.5 percent to $1.82 billion.

The trade situation for the rubber industry was contrary to the nation's economy as a whole, where the U.S. merchandise trade deficit actually fell 7.1 percent for the month.

For tires and related products, the shortfall for January rose 9.6 percent to $781.2 million. The passenger tire deficit actually declined 1.3 percent to $416.3 million, but the truck/bus shortfall jumped 21.4 percent to $188.4 million.

In other rubber product categories, the deficit for hose and tubing increased 66.9 percent to $28.7 million; the belting shortfall dropped 30.8 percent to $12 million; the miscellaneous hard rubber products deficit fell 16 percent to $84.8 million; and the shortfall for rubber- and plastic-coated garments rose 12.4 percent to $133.7 million.

On the supply side, the rubber sector showed a trade surplus of $28.4 million, compared to a deficit of $15 million in January 2013. Exports climbed 3.8 percent to $517.1 million as imports declined 4.8 percent to $488.7 million.