Although recent economic indicators point to a tempering of the U.S. economy, the Portland Cement Association is maintaining its forecast for steady growth in construction and cement consumption during the next five years.
A recent PCA forecast indicates a 7.9 percent increase in cement consumption for 2014, almost double the 4.5 increase experienced in 2013. The industry expects to see double-digit growth in 2015 and 2016 with 10 percent growth both years.
“There is considerable evidence that the economy’s growth path has softened during the past several months,” explained Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist and group vice president. “But we believe that the underlying economic fundamentals are stronger than the data suggest.”
Real GDP weakened considerably during the fourth quarter to 2.6 percent from 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013. Preliminary first quarter estimates growth at a meager 0.1 percent. Furthermore, consumer confidence has recorded setbacks, mortgage applications have recorded sustained weekly declines, the housing market has stalled, and real put-in-place construction activity has slowed.
The principal cause for the recent economic weakness, according to Sullivan, is the unusually adverse weather conditions across the United States during the fourth quarter of 2013 and first quarter of 2014.
“The weather conditions had an obvious impact on cement consumption – limiting construction and concrete use. The northern states and much of the east coast were hit hard, with year-over-year losses of as much as 25 percent,” said Sullivan. “However, despite this drag, nationwide cement recorded gains. Through the first quarter, cement consumption increased 4.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013.”