Strong Economic Momentum Expected to Spillover to Construction.
Edward Sullivan is chief economist for Portland Cement Association (PCA). As chief economist, he directs all PCA’s forward assessments of the economy, cement consumption, and the construction industry—for the U.S., Canada, and international. In each of the past 2 years, Ed was cited by the Chicago Federal Reserve as the most accurate forecaster regarding economic growth among 30 top economists. Various other forecasting surveys have placed Ed among the most accurate construction economists in the country. Ed’s analysis and views regarding the construction, cement, and concrete industries are widely used in corporate planning efforts, government policy, and media. Ed has more than 20 years of industrial economic analysis in support of senior executives and has played an important role in several U.S. Government trade policy decisions. In the past, Ed has held vice president positions at Chase Manhattan Bank Economics, Standard & Poor’s, and Wharton Economics where he worked with Nobel Lauriat, Lawrence Klein. His background also includes positions as a senior intelligence officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, and as an economist within the Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Improving underlying economic fundamentals, the existence of large pent-up demand balances, and the diminishment of economic fiscal cliff uncertainty will combine to result in strong growth rates in 2013 and an increase in cement consumption.
According to the latest forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA), there will be an 8.1 percent growth in cement consumption in 2013, significantly higher than the tepid growth projected in its fall 2012 report. The upward revisions reflect adjustments made in light of the recent fiscal cliff accord, recognition of stronger economic momentum, and markedly more optimistic assessments regarding residential construction activity. The January report marked 2012 consumption at 78.5 million metric tons, an 8.9 percent increase compared to 2011.
“Growth in 2013 cement consumption will be largely driven by gains in residential construction,” PCA chief economist Ed Sullivan says. “Housing starts should reach nearly 950,000 units, with single family construction near 700,000 starts during 2013. We see starts hitting the one million mark in 2014 or 2015.”
Sullivan did caution, however, that the first quarter of 2013 would actually show declines compared to the same period in 2012. “It is important to point out that this potential decline in first quarter growth rates does not signal a weakening in market fundamentals, but rather a hangover from favorable 2012 weather conditions. Stronger gains in cement consumption growth are expected during the second quarter.”
The accelerated consumption predicted during the second half of 2013 should carry into the following year. PCA projects an increase of 8.3 percent for 2014. PCA also upwardly revised its long-range projections for 2015-2017. Annual growth during that period is expected to be as high as 9.2 percent. Cement consumption is dictated by the level of construction activity and by the prevailing cement intensity.
While 2017 cement intensity levels remain well below the prerecession averages and upside risks remain, these risks have been significantly reduced. ■
For More Information:
Based in Washington, D.C., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. For more information, visit
Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2013
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