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Rubber sector bucks U.S. trend, improves deficit

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. rubber industry showed a marked improvement in its trade balance through May compared with last year, bucking the national import/export trend.

The trade deficit for rubber products declined by 3.4 percent for the first five months of 2013 compared with a year earlier. However, the biggest changes occurred on the supply side, the rubber-related trade category, from a deficit of $79.2 million for the January-May period last year, to a positive trade balance of $215.5 million.

Much of that improvement came from trade in styrene-butadiene rubber. The workhorse rubber had a deficit of $46.5 million in the first five months of 2012, but in the corresponding period this year it has enjoyed a $56.9 million surplus.

Overall, the U.S. rubber product trade deficit through May was whittled down to $4.5 billion from a year earlier. The trade deficit for the entire country worsened by 14.1 percent in that period.

In individual rubber product categories, the tire and related products sector came in 3.9 percent better through May compared to the 2012 figure. Much of that improvement comes from the truck and bus tires segment, which posted a deficit that is 16.8 percent less than in the corresponding period of 2012.

The passenger tire category went in the opposite direction. Its deficit ballooned 6.3 percent through May, to $2.21 billion.