Although cement consumption is not projected to decline, only marginal gains are expected for 2006. However, the following year looks slightly more promising and 2008 promises a growing market, according to information from the Portland Cement Association (PCA).
"Our forecast projects that cement intensities will increase by 2 percent in 2007, fueled by a favorable relative price position versus asphalt and steel, as well as a shift towards higher cement usage construction projects," said Ed Sullivan, PCA chief economist at the association's recent board of directors meeting in Sea Island GA. "Code changes in hurricane-prone regions, improved concrete products, and concrete's growth as a 'green' building material will all contribute to this despite a decrease in construction activity."
He said revised projections of cement consumption growth for 2006 pointed to an increase of .6 percent. An even more modest growth rate of .3 percent is expected in 2007 with more robust trends returning in 2008 when cement consumption is projected to increase by 2.7 percent.
The flattening of the market is the combined result of the decline in the housing industry and softer overall economic conditions.
"In recent years the United States and the cement industry have experienced unprecedented growth," he said. "However, construction activity is starting to soften and this will create an adverse impact on cement consumption."
Sullivan sees cement intensity growth as key to market growth during the next couple of years. Cement intensities refers to the tons of cement per dollar of construction activity.
Additionally, the PCA fall forecast does not expect the sharp decline in housing to continue at the current rate. Sullivan says the recent downward change in the housing market was driven by the departure of speculators from the market. Their exit will actually help introduce a correction to housing prices and improve affordability for the average homebuyer.
See full coverage of this topic in the January 2007 issue of Bulk Transporter that includes the annual construction industry transport forecast. Bulk Transporter partners with Concrete Products magazine in this special report.