Driven by a Surging Housing Market and Increased Infrastructure Spending at the State Level, 2014 Looks to Build on the Positive Growth of 2013.
By Mark Kuhar and Josephine Smith
The books are closed on 2013. Now it’s time to look ahead to 2014, and to gauge where the industry stands, and where it is headed, using the best market data available. It all starts with aggregates production. The most recent estimates are based on information reported to Rock Products via the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quarterly sample survey of crushed stone, and construction sand and gravel producers.
An estimated 646 million metric tons (Mt) of total construction aggregates was produced and shipped for consumption in the United States in the third quarter of 2013, an increase of 8 percent compared with that of the same period of 2012.
“The estimated production for consumption in the first 9 months of 2013 was 1.56 billion metric tons (Gt), an increase of almost 3 percent compared with that of the same period of 2012,” said Jason Willet, USGS crushed stone commodity specialist.
There is typically less activity in the fourth quarter of any year, unless weather conditions have been favorable. This year saw a number of large storms that have been disruptive to aggregates producers. End-of-the-year 2013 totals will likely hold steady at around a 3-percent increase for the year.
Breaking down production by product segment, an estimated 367 Mt of crushed stone was produced and shipped for consumption in the United States in the third quarter of 2013, an increase of 8 percent compared with that of the same period of 2012. The estimated production for consumption in the first 9 months of 2013 was 904 Mt, a slight increase compared with the first 9 months of 2012.
The estimated U.S. output of construction sand and gravel produced and shipped for consumption in the third quarter of 2013 was 279 Mt, an increase of 9 percent compared with that of the same period of 2012. The estimated production for consumption in the first 9 months of 2013 was 657 Mt, an increase of 3 percent compared with that of the same period of 2012.
The estimated production-for-consumption of aggregates in the third quarter of 2013 increased in all of the nine geographic divisions compared with that sold or used in the third quarter of 2012. The largest increases in percentages were recorded in the East South Central (15 percent),
the Middle Atlantic (14 percent), and the West North Central (12 percent) divisions.
Production-for-consumption of aggregates increased in 35 of the 44 states that were estimated. The five leading states were, in descending order of production-for-consumption, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio. Their combined total production-for-consumption was 183 Mt and represented 28 percent of the U.S. total.
The estimated production-for-consumption of crushed stone in the third quarter of 2013 increased in all of the geographic divisions compared with that sold or used in the third quarter of 2012. The largest increases were recorded in the West North Central (16 percent), the Middle Atlantic (13 percent) and the Pacific (9 percent) divisions.
Production-for-consumption of crushed stone increased in 35 of the 46 states that were estimated. The five leading states were, in descending order of production-for-consumption, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. Their combined total production-for-consumption was 121 Mt and represented 33 percent of the U.S. total.
The estimated production-for-consumption of construction sand and gravel in the third quarter of 2013 increased from the third quarter 2012 levels in eight of the nine geographic divisions. The largest increases in percentages were recorded in the East South Central (22 percent), the Middle Atlantic (16 percent) and the West South Central (12 percent) divisions.
Production-for-consumption of construction sand and gravel increased in 32 of the 46 states that were estimated. The five leading states were, in descending order of production-for-consumption, California, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota. Their combined total production-for-consumption was 105 Mt and represented 38 percent of the U.S. total.
U.S. Aggregates Production Aggregates
|Crushed Stone||Sand and Gravel||Aggregates Nonresidential|
|2013 (est.)||1,205 Gt||865,000 Mt||2,070 Gt|
|2012||1,170 Gt||845,000 Mt||2,010 Gt|
|2011||1,160 Gt||810,000 Mt||1.970 Gt|
|2010||1,160 Gt||805,000 Mt||1.965 Gt|
|2009||1,160 Gt||838,000 Mt||1,998 Gt|
Gt = Billion Metric Tons / Mt =Million Metric Tons
Estimated portland cement consumption increased by 10 percent in the third quarter of 2013 and was up 4 percent in the first 9 months of 2013, compared with that of the same periods of 2012, according to the USGS monthly survey of U.S. cement producers. But growth in U.S. construction markets could be dampened by congressional drama that erodes consumer confidence and hinders re-
covery, according to the latest forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA).
“American consumers love drama. Moreover, Congress knows how to create it, with more on the way when the debt ceiling talks resume in early 2014,” said Edward Sullivan, PCA group vice president and chief economist. “Each time the political circus on Capitol Hill addresses extensions of the debt limit, budget approvals or the fiscal cliff, it harms the burgeoning economic momentum.”
PCA expects 2013 cement consumption to reach nearly 80 million metric tons (Mt), a 4.5 percent increase over 2012. Consumption levels are will reach 86 Mt in 2014, an 8.1 percent year-over-year gain.
Consumer and business confidence is a key ingredient for stronger economic gains, noted Sullivan. Recessions generate pent-up demand to correct their imbalances. Large imbalances need a long correction process. While the economy is positioned for stronger growth, it needs a trigger to unleash this potential. The trigger lies with consumer and businesses willingness to spend and reinvest in capital. Congress can easily derail recovery momentum with political drama created by the federal shutdown and debt ceilings.
During 2014, it is possible that all sectors of construction will record growth –residential, nonresidential and possibly public. While the growth will be broad-based, half of it anticipated for 2014 will come from residential construction activity where there is the largest amount of pent-up demand. The commercial and institutional sector will contribute another 25 percent.
Typically, when each sector contributes to growth, robust growth rates in cement consumption materializes. PCA predicts real construction spending to grow 1.3 percent in 2013 and by 8 percent in 2014.
Sullivan believes the trough point for roadway construction was reached in 2013. “Improving state finances could provide surpluses by 2015 that states can apply to neglected infrastructure spending.”
Producers Look Ahead
Vulcan Materials, Martin Marietta Materials, and MDU Resources, in their respective quarterly reports, looked at the fourth-quarter of 2013 and ahead into 2014, and across the board, the signs are positive.
Regarding the company’s outlook, Don James, Vulcan’s chairman and chief executive officer, stated, “Through the first nine months of 2013, segment gross profit and margins improved in all major product lines, leading to 180 basis points of margin expansion overall. This improvement was driven by higher volumes and pricing in most major products. Despite a challenging first half of the year due to wet weather, aggregates shipments were up 3 percent through the first nine months of 2013, excluding the effects of the divestiture of our Wisconsin aggregates operations as well as acquisitions in Texas and Georgia completed earlier this year.
“This year-to-date growth in aggregates demand is in-line with our expectations at the beginning of the year and is driven by improved private construction activity, particularly in several of our key states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas,” James said. “Through the first nine months of the year, aggregates shipments in these five states combined were up more than 16 percent. Looking ahead, these states have accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. housing starts in the trailing twelve months ending September and 80 percent of contract awards for all U.S. private nonresidential buildings, measured in square feet, during the same period. As a result, we believe the outlook for volume growth in these key states should continue and help offset the impact of several large highway and industrial projects that have now been deferred into the first half of 2014.”
FMI, a leading provider of management consulting and investment banking to the engineering and construction industry, released its “2014 U.S. Markets Construction Overview.” With construction put in place at the end of 2013 expected to be at $909.6 billion, researchers at FMI predict CPIP growth rates to be slightly ahead of the GDP in 2014.
Other predictions include:
With moderate growth predicted marketwide, there are key trends to watch that will likely affect various sectors and regions in the U.S. Presenting both threats and opportunities are:
James continued, “As we look at the projects that could impact our aggregates volumes for the remainder of the year and into 2014, we continue to see a disproportionately greater number of large highway and industrial projects. The timing of shipments to these projects remains difficult to predict. New highway projects, as measured by trailing 12-month contract awards, increased 7 percent versus the prior year’s level – the third consecutive quarter with an increase. The large increase in TIFIA funding contained in last year’s highway bill should also positively impact future demand. Year-to-date, aggregates volumes are up more than 2 percent and pricing has increased more than 3 percent with virtually all markets realizing price growth versus the prior year. Assuming normal weather patterns, we expect these year-over-year growth trends to continue in the fourth quarter.”
Ward Nye, president and CEO of Martin Marietta Materials said, “We are encouraged by various positive trends in our business and markets – especially in private-sector employment and construction. We anticipate volumes in the nonresidential end-use market to increase in the mid-single digits given that the Architecture Billings Index, or ABI, a leading economic indicator for nonresidential construction spending activity, remains at a strong level and has shown consistent growth over the last year.
“Residential construction is experiencing a level of growth not seen since late 2005 with seasonally-adjusted starts ahead of any period since 2008. We believe this trend in housing starts will continue and our residential end-use market will experience high single-digit volume growth. By contrast, the weather-related slowdown in aggregates shipments experienced in the first half of the year, coupled with the hesitancy created by the uncertainty of future federal highway funding levels, leads us to expect aggregates shipments to the infrastructure end-use market to be down in the mid-single digits for the full year.
“Cumulatively, dependent on fourth-quarter weather, we anticipate aggregates product line shipments will be flat to slightly up as compared with 2012 levels. We currently expect aggregates product line pricing will increase 2 percent to 4 percent for the full year compared with 2012. A variety of factors beyond our direct control may continue to exert pressure on our volumes, and our forecasted pricing increase will not be uniform across the company.
“We have started framing a preliminary 2014 outlook for our end-use markets and, while the current environment in Washington, D.C., reduces clarity, we have formed an initial view based on our internal observations in conjunction with McGraw Hill Construction’s recent economic forecast. We currently expect shipments to the infrastructure end-use market to increase slightly. We anticipate our nonresidential end-use market to increase in the mid-to-high single digits, led by strength in the commercial component and energy sector. We believe the recent positive trend in housing starts will continue and our residential end-use market will experience double-digit volume growth,” Nye said.
“We have had a strong year,” said David L. Goodin, president and CEO of MDU Resources. “With the strength of our results in October and November and our current estimate for December, we felt it was important to provide an update of how we are seeing 2013. We experienced good construction weather in the northern tier states of operation in October and November allowing us to execute further into the season on our higher construction materials backlog. In December, as expected, we have seen a slowdown in construction because of colder weather. However, the colder weather is resulting in higher natural gas and electric sales at our utility, demonstrating the strength of our diversification. Construction services, including its equipment sales and rental business, also is seeing continued solid performance. These improved results from our construction and utility businesses have more than offset the effects of wider basis differentials in key E&P production areas like the Bakken.”
The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced that construction spending during October 2013 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $908.4 billion, 0.8 percent (±1.8 percent) above the September estimate of $901.2 billion. The October figure is 5.3 percent (±2.1 percent) above the October 2012 estimate of $863.1 billion.
Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $83.3 billion, 0.6 percent (±6.9 percent) above the September estimate of $82.8 billion.
In October, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $282.7 billion, 3.9 percent (±3.0 percent) above the September estimate of $272.2 billion. Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $64.0 billion, 8.5 percent (±4.1 percent) above the September estimate of $59.0 billion.
During the first 10 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $747.0 billion, 5.0 percent (±1.3 percent) above the $711.7 billion for the same period in 2012.
- Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $625.7 billion, 0.5 percent (±1.0 percent) below the September estimate of $629.0 billion.
- Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $326.9 billion in October, 0.6 percent (±1.3 percent) below the September estimate of $328.7 billion.
- Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $298.9 billion in October, 0.5 percent (±1.0 percent) below the September estimate of $300.2 billion.
At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $524.8 billion, new construction starts in November fell 11 percent from the previous month, according to McGraw Hill Construction, a division of McGraw Hill Financial. The downturn followed heightened activity in October, which showed the strongest pace for construction starts so far during 2013.
Both nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction pulled back from their elevated October amounts. At the same time, residential building showed modest growth in November, continuing the steady upward trend that’s been present during most of 2013.
“The monthly construction start statistics will often show an up-and-down pattern, given the amount of large projects that are included in any given month,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for McGraw Hill Construction. “Although November witnessed a decline from the heightened activity in September and October, the construction start statistics when viewed in the context of 2013 as a whole are still trending upward. Housing during 2013 has strengthened on a consistent basis. Nonresidential building is gaining momentum, aided by improving activity for commercial building from low levels while the institutional building sector stabilizes after a lengthy decline. Nonbuilding construction is weakening due to a sharply reduced amount of new electric utility starts, but its public works component has shown surprising resilience this year. For 2014, the upward trend for total construction starts is expected to continue. One plus for construction and the economy going forward is the recent budget pact approved by the U.S. Congress, since it removes the uncertainty that would have come with the threat of another government shutdown in early 2014.”
Nonresidential building in November dropped 17 percent to $179.3 billion (annual rate), following its elevated activity in October. The manufacturing plant category plunged 86 percent, after being lifted in October by the start of three massive projects each valued in excess of $1 billion. In contrast, the largest manufacturing-related projects reported as November starts were a $94 million biotechnology plant in North Carolina and a $75 million pipe and tube plant in Texas.
Excluding the manufacturing category, nonresidential building in November would have been up 16 percent, supported by the month’s 31 percent jump for the commercial building group.
Hotel construction in November surged 212 percent, boosted by $476 million for the hotel portion of the $700 million 67-story Korean Air Hotel in Los Angeles. Also reported as a November start was $191 million for the hotel portion of a $300 million hotel resort and casino in Durant, Okla. Office construction in November climbed 26 percent, maintaining the growing momentum that’s been present during the second half of 2013. Large office projects reported as November starts were the $336 million Transbay office tower in San Francisco, the $265 million State Farm office complex in Tempe, Ariz., and $160 million for the office portion of the Korean Air Hotel project.
Warehouse construction was particularly strong in November, advancing 82 percent with the help of such projects as a $90 million distribution facility in Union, Ohio, and an $85 million Amazon distribution center in Kenosha, Wis. Store construction was the one commercial category to decline in November, dropping 23 percent with the largest project being a $45 million outlet mall in Tejon Ranch, Calif.
The institutional building group in November slipped 3 percent. Healthcare facilities fell 41 percent, sliding back for the second month in a row after a particularly strong amount in September. The largest healthcare facility projects reported as November starts were a $136 million hospital in Chicago and a $90 million hospital expansion in Long Island City, N.Y.
The educational building category in November decreased 8 percent from its improved pace in October, with the largest education-related projects being a $125 million museum expansion in Potomac, Md., and a $100 million research facility in Maywood, Ill.
The smaller institutional categories showed strong percentage gains in November after a generally weak October. Amusement-related construction advanced 84 percent, led by the start of the $763 million Vikings Multipurpose Stadium in Minneapolis as well as $109 million for the casino portion of the hotel resort and casino in Durant, Okla.
Transportation terminal construction in November rose 13 percent, supported by $125 million for the redevelopment of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in New York. The public buildings and religious categories in November showed large percentage gains from very low October levels, rising 21 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Nonbuilding construction, at $127.1 billion (annual rate), dropped 21 percent in November. The public works portion of nonbuilding construction fell 23 percent, with the largest decline registered by bridge construction, down 73 percent.
The bridge category in October had been boosted by $2.8 billion for the start of structural work on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project across the Hudson River in the Tarrytown, N.Y., area. In November, the largest bridge project reported as a construction start was a $125 million bridge reconstruction project in Fall River, Mass.
Additional public works categories with November declines were highway construction, down 3 percent; and sewers, down 32 percent. On the plus side, both river/harbor development and water supply construction showed improvement from a lackluster October, advancing 47 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
The miscellaneous public works category, which includes such diverse project types as pipelines and mass transit, grew 8 percent in November with the help of the $300 million Keystone Pipeline Gulf Coast Expansion in Texas. Electric utility construction in November edged up 1 percent, staying basically unchanged from its sharply reduced amount in October. The largest electric utility project reported as a November start was a $400 million wind farm in the state of Washington.
Residential building in November improved 1 percent to $218.5 billion (annual rate). The upward push came from the multifamily side of the housing market, which climbed 18 percent. Large multifamily projects reported as November starts included a $450 million multifamily tower and the $126 million condominium portion of a $300 million condo hotel, both located in New York.
Also reaching groundbreaking in November were a $114 million multifamily tower in San Francisco, a $100 million apartment complex in Huntington Station, N.Y., and a $100 million multifamily tower in Chicago.
Single-family housing in November receded 3 percent, pulling back after a 4 percent gain in October. The November pace for single-family housing was still 12 percent above what was reported at the outset of 2013.
During the first 11 months of 2013, residential building advanced 25 percent compared to a year ago. Single family housing will come close to matching last year’s strong percentage gain (up 29 percent), reporting a 27 percent increase in this year’s January-November period.
Led by a solid increase in both single-family and multifamily starts, nationwide housing production rose 22.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million in November, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This report is in line with our latest survey, which shows that builders are increasingly confident that buyers who have sat on the sidelines are feeling more secure about their economic situation and are now moving to purchase new homes,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “This upward trend could be even stronger if not for persistently tight lending conditions for buyers and builders facing rising costs for building materials, lots and labor.”
“Single-family and multifamily starts are at five-year highs, providing additional evidence that the recovery is here to stay,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “We hit a soft spot this fall when interest rates jumped and the government closed down, but mortgage rates still remain very affordable and pent-up demand is helping to boost the housing market. We expect a continued steady, gradual growth in starts and home sales in 2014.”
Single-family starts posted a 20.8 percent gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 727,000 units in November, which was their fastest rate since December of 2007. Multifamily production was up 26 percent to 364,000 units. Regionally, combined starts activity rose 41.7 percent in the Midwest, 38.5 percent in the South and 8.8 percent in the West, but fell 29.4 percent in the Northeast.
Overall building permits, which are an indicator of future building activity, fell 3.1 percent to 1.007 million units in November. Despite the modest decline, this was the second month that new permit issuance topped the million mark. Regionally, total permit issuance increased 7.8 percent in the Northeast and fell 7 percent in the South, 0.4 percent in the West and 0.6 percent in the Midwest.
Markets in 54 out of the approximately 350 metro areas nationwide have returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI). The index’s nationwide score of .86 indicates that, based on current permits, prices and employment data, the nationwide market is running at 86 percent of normal economic and housing activity.
The LMI figures for November showed that 55 housing markets were operating at or above their last normal levels and the nationwide market was operating at 85 percent of normal growth.
“This index shows that most housing markets across the nation are continuing a slow, gradual climb back to normal levels,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “Policymakers must guard against actions that could impede or even reverse the modest gains of the past year.”
Noting that smaller metros accounted for most of the 54 markets on the current LMI that are at or above normal levels, NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that “smaller markets are leading the way, particularly where energy is the primary economic driver. Nearly half of the markets in the top 54 are in the energy states of Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.”
“The fact that more than 125 markets on this month’s LMI are showing activity levels of at least 90 percent of previous norms bodes well for a continuing housing recovery in 2014,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Co., which co-sponsors the LMI report.
Baton Rouge, La., tops the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.42 – or 42 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin, Texas and Houston, as well as Pittsburgh – all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now exceeds previous norms.
Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Casper, Wyo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Grand Forks, N.D., respectively.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is forecasting that beyond a modest increase in construction costs nationwide, the overall U.S. transportation infrastructure construction market will grow 5 percent from $129 billion this year to $135.8 billion in 2014.
ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black said the market would be led by expected double-digit growth in airport runway and terminal work, a 6 percent increase in bridge and tunnel construction, and 5 percent, or better, growth in total investment in waterways and ports, and heavy and light rail.
Uncertainty about the level of federal support for state highway programs after next September, however, will continue to depress the road pavement market next year.
Black forecasts the pavement market will grow to $54.4 billion in 2014, up 2.6 percent nationally. This includes $42.7 billion in public and private investment in highways, roads and streets, and $11.6 billion in largely private investments in parking lots, driveways and related structures. The market, however, will be uneven nationwide, she said. ARTBA forecasts paving work to be up in 19 states, down in 20, and largely flat in the remaining 11.
“Over the past 10 years, on average nationally, federal funding has provided 52 percent of the money invested by state transportation departments in road and bridge capital improvement projects,” Black said, noting, “The federal share ranges from 35 percent in New Jersey to over 70 percent in 11 states.”
“Absent congressional action to improve the revenue stream into the federal Highway Trust Fund before next October, federal support for state programs faces a potential $40 billion cut in fiscal year 2015,” she said. “That uncertainty is already putting a damper on state project lettings. Congress needs to act.”
“If the federal program can be at least stabilized, the longer term outlook for pavements could be much more positive,” said Black. “Bipartisan political support for significantly increased transportation investment has been seen in a number of bell-weather states this year, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Massachusetts. Wyoming and Vermont passed gas tax increases for expanded investment. Eighty-five percent of the 2014 transportation investment ballot initiatives passed. And the public-private investment market is picking-up with the expansion of the federal loan guarantee program.”
The ARTBA forecast is based on a proprietary econometric model and analysis of federal, state and local data and market intelligence.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) maintains that the transportation infrastructure construction market will grow 5 percent to $135.8 billion in 2014.
ARTBA’s 2014 forecast for transportation modes includes:
- Bridges/Tunnels – Bridge and tunnel construction is expected to grow from $28.5 billion in 2013 to a record-level $30.1 billion next year. ARTBA says large projects in 10 states – California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Kentucky, Virginia and Washington – will account for about half of U.S. market activity in this sector.
- Ports/Waterways – The port and waterway construction market, which has grown by a third since 2011 in anticipation of increased sea trade through the Panama Canal starting in 2015, is expected to grow another $100 million, to $3.0 billion next year. The top market states will be: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
- Airport Runways/Terminals – The total value of airport runway and terminal construction is expected to increase 17 percent to $14.7 billion in 2014, ARTBA forecasts. Market-driving states will include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
- Light Rail, Subways/Railroads – The domestic light rail, subway and railroad construction markets will continue to see growth in 2014. Subway and light rail work will grow five percent to $7.9 billion from $7.5 billion. Heavy rail investment, largely by Class 1 freight railroads, will increase 8 percent to $12.6 billion this year from $11.6 billion. Increase in demand to transport goods, including shale and crude oil, as well as multi-modal improvements for better port-rail connections, are driving higher levels of railroad investment. Based on recent state and local government contract awards, these states will be moving forward on key projects: California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.