Keep Exports Weird

In my town, cars have bumper stickers that read, "Keep Portland Weird."  Exports, too, are weird, though I don’t know that I’d hope for that to continue.

The aggregate numbers are fine:

This is nice growth, nice because it’s a boost to our economy, and nice because I’ve been forecasting continued strength in exports.  The weirdness is in the details.  Looking at the details, the biggest growth categories are soybeans, plastics (a tribute to Mr. Robinson), oilfield equipment (not weird), and "artwork, antiques, stamps, etc."  That’s a pretty weird set of export growth leaders.  The dollar growth in those four categories was more than four times the total growth, meaning that most other sectors declined.  In fact, about half of the detailed categories declined.

Business Strategy Implications:  The aggregate data confirm strong export markets, but don’t be surprised if your mileage varies from the totals reported in the news.