Business Monday

2014 revealing itself: Top 5 pronouncements so far for the year

Ken Roberts
Ken Roberts

Soon, 2014 will draw to a close. From an import-export point of view, the data lag about 30 days — we now have data through September — but we can start making some pronouncements. Here are five:

SLIDING NUMBERS

South Florida’s U.S. Customs district, led by PortMiami, Port Everglades and Miami International Airport, will add a distinction in 2014. Just two years ago, it finished among the nation’s top 10 import-export points of entry for the first time. Many times over the past two decades it has led the nation with the largest trade surplus. But this year, when the calendar has flipped and the trade data are tallied, the distinction will be more dubious.

Among the top 15 Customs districts, it will lead the nation for the biggest one-year decline. To be fair, Philadelphia will almost certainly show an even larger decline among Customs districts, but there it is so steep that it has been knocked out of the top 15, to No. 17.

And South Florida’s decline, at $4.04 billion through September, is slightly less than that of No. 24 Great Falls, Montana, where trade is off $4.16 billion. Philadelphia is winning the sweepstakes with a $4.47 billion decline compared to the same nine-month period in 2013.

What it means: It’s not as bad for South Florida as it appears. The steep drops in the value of gold exports and imports and computer chip imports account for 93.83 percent of South Florida’s decline through September. (These have been covered in recent columns.)

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Among South Florida’s top 15 trade partners, as many as 11 stand to register a decline in two-way trade in 2014. Definite losers: No. 2 Colombia, currently down 3.98 percent; No. 4 Costa Rica, off 26.58 percent through September; No. 7 Venezuela, down 16.98 percent; No. 8 Honduras, down 5.35 percent; No. 9 Peru, down 34.46 percent; No. 11 Argentina, off 16.63 percent; No. 12 Guatemala, down 5.94 percent; and No. 14 El Salvador, down 6.97 percent.

In the too-tough-to-call category: No. 1 Brazil, currently off 0.51 percent; and No. 6 Chile, down 0.27 percent.

In the likely-to-stay-in-the-green category: No. 3 China, up 0.35 percent; and No. 5 Dominican Republic, up 1.20 percent. Three among the top 15 will definitely show growth in 2014: No. 10 Ecuador, up 16.84 percent; No. 13 France, up 9.48 percent; and No. 15 Hong Kong, up 118.13 percent.

What it means: Most troubling are those countries not significantly affected by gold or computer chip declines, most notably Venezuela, Honduras, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Chile and China.

THE TOP 15

As is the case every year, there is a little shuffling among the top 15: France, up three positions, and Hong Kong, up 10, are new to the top 15. Bounced from the top 15 are Mexico, down four spots to No. 18 at the moment, and No. 21 Switzerland, down 11 from 2013.

What it means: All but France are related to gold, with Hong Kong the only one benefiting. France is importing more into South Florida, with most of the growth in perfumes, aircraft, navigational equipment, aviation parts and returned exports.

EXPORTS

Among South Florida’s top 15 exports, it appears as many as 10 will decline in value in 2014, including the top four.

No. 1 civilian aircraft, engines and parts, currently off 2.46 percent; No. 2 cellular phones, landlines and parts, now down 7.11 percent; No. 3 computers, off 8.79 percent; No. 4 gold, down 33.01 percent; No. 8 computer chips, off 26.96 percent; No. 9 computer parts, down 8.57 percent; No. 11 motor vehicles, off 4.96 percent; No. 12 cameras and camcorders, down 14.46 percent; and No. 14 parts for heavy machinery, down 7.18 percent.

The ones that are less clear are No. 6 medicine, currently in the black, up 0.51 percent; No. 7 printers, down 0.58 percent through September; and No. 10 motor vehicle parts, up 1.78 percent. Definite winners for 2014 will be medical instruments, up 9.16 percent currently; No. 13 cotton, up 5.53 percent; and No. 15 pumps for dispensing liquids, up 3.28 percent.

What it means: Most off-putting are the relatively significant decline in cellphones, long a strong performer; the drop in motor vehicles, which points to slackening demand in traditional Caribbean markets; and, to a limited extent, the drop in heavy machinery parts, which suggests belt-tightening.

IMPORTS

Among South Florida’s top 15 imports, it appears only six are certain to decline. No. 1 gold is down 18.87 percent; No. 3 computer chips are down 42.82 percent; No. 5 returned exports are off 5.56 percent; No. 8 T-shirts off 15.82 percent; No. 9 sweaters down 11.12 percent; and No. 14 computers falling 25.55 percent.

Only two among the top 15 would fall into the too-close-to-call category: No. 11 medical instruments, up 0.48 percent; and No. 12 fresh-cut flowers, up 0.78 percent.

Definite winners? There are six: No. 2 gasoline, which is up 8.88 percent in value through September; No. 4 cellphones, which have increased 12.84 percent; No. 6 aircraft, up 26.39 percent; No. 7 fish fillets, up 18.47 percent; No. 10 charitable items, returned as imports, up 54.45 percent; No. 13 perfumes, up 14.82 percent; and No. 15 cigars and cigarettes, up 6.14 percent.

What it means: More interesting here are the wide swings on the positive side, especially aircraft, fish fillets, perfumes, and cigars. While not luxury items exclusively for the wealthy, they skew that way.

Ken Roberts is the founder and president of WorldCity, a Coral Gables-based company that tracks the impact of globalization on local communities. He can be reached at kroberts@worldcityweb.com.

TOP 15 SOUTH FLORIDA imports

Rank

Change

Sept.

2014

YTD

Miami

Imports

September 2014

YTD

1-year

change

1-year

change

10-year

change

10-year

change

  

Total, All Miami Imports

$ 37,379,809,286

-$1,628,513,150

-4.17%

$16,483,513,645

78.88%

0

1

Gold

$ 4,210,439,224

-$979,204,906

-18.87%

$3,747,467,116

809.44%

1

2

Gasoline, other fuels

$ 2,777,214,032

$226,471,936

8.88%

$1,793,532,244

182.33%

-1

3

Computer chips

$ 2,078,061,257

-$1,555,950,315

-42.82%

$1,841,168,488

777.22%

1

4

Cellular, landline

phones, parts

$ 1,947,374,209

$221,610,175

12.84%

$1,867,902,758

2350.41%

-1

5

Imports of

returned exports

$ 1,817,360,761

-$107,085,115

-5.56%

$1,018,169,446

127.40%

3

6

Aircraft

$ 1,132,520,417

$236,474,183

26.39%

-$540,690,139

-32.31%

1

7

Fish fillets, chilled or frozen

$ 1,088,904,331

$169,742,302

18.47%

$686,936,777

170.89%

-2

8

T-shirts, tank tops, knit

or crocheted

$ 890,437,794

-$167,281,129

-15.82%

$104,667,727

13.32%

-2

9

Sweaters, pullovers vest, knit or crocheted

$ 840,754,330

-$105,200,723

-11.12%

-$24,264,617

-2.81%

4

10

Exports of charitable items, returned as

imports

$ 758,696,693

$267,460,304

54.45%

$741,898,851

4416.63%

-1

11

Medical instruments

for surgeons,

dentists, vets

$ 688,974,130

$3,312,076

0.48%

$277,505,002

67.44%

0

12

Fresh-cut

flowers

$ 674,463,461

$5,222,005

0.78%

$219,260,959

48.17%

2

13

Perfumes

$ 540,237,589

$69,728,347

14.82%

$316,613,960

141.58%

-3

14

Computers

$ 507,959,215

-$174,343,892

-25.55%

$118,645,375

30.48%

1

15

Cigars, cigarettes

$ 496,782,842

$28,744,885

6.14%

$344,328,520

225.86%

Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data

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