CPA: Construction products sales slow in 4Q but 'optimism for 2016 remains'

CPA: Construction products sales slow in 4Q but 'optimism for 2016 remains'
Published: 25 January 2016


The Construction Product Association’s latest State of Trade Survey reports a slowdown in growth in sales of construction products in the fourth quarter of 2015, owing to domestic weakness and a fall in export sales. Sales nonetheless achieved their 11th-consecutive quarter of growth and were still significantly higher on an annual basis. Manufacturers also remain optimistic about domestic and overseas prospects for 2016.

Key points include:

• A balance of five per cent of heavy-side firms and 38 per cent of light-side firms reported that sales rose during the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to respective balances of 13 and 29 per cent in 3Q
• 29 per cent of heavy-side firms and 23 per cent of light-side firms reported an annual increase in sales
• Exports decreased for nine per cent of heavy-side firms and 20 per cent of light-side firms compared to a year earlier
• 43 per cent of heavy-side product manufacturers and 42 per cent of light-side product manufacturers reported that they anticipate a rise in total sales over the next 12 months
• 10 per cent of heavy-side firms and 29 per cent of light-side firms anticipate a rise in exports during 2016
• 14 per cent of heavy-side firms and eight per cent of light-side firms reported an increase in costs in 4Q
• Manufacturers reported a decrease in fuel, energy and exchange rate costs, but wages and salaries were reported higher for 90 per cent of heavy-side firms and 77 per cent of light-side firms.

Rebecca Larkin, CPA senior economist, said: “This marked the 11th straight quarter of rising sales of construction products.  For manufacturers on the heavy-side, however, this was the lowest quarterly balance in three years, which echoes weakness in overall construction output data for the closing months of last year.

“Compared to 3Q, only five per cent of heavy-side firms reported a rise in sales in 4Q. This was the lowest balance since 2013 Q1 and reflects lower domestic activity, as well as a decrease in export sales as sterling appreciated against the euro in late 2015.  On the light side, where products are typically used towards the end of the construction process, 38 per cent of firms reported a rise in 4Q quarterly sales, indicating continued demand from strong building activity earlier in 2015.

“A positive effect of the 4Q appreciation in the sterling was its downward impact on manufacturers’ import costs. The decline in global oil prices also filtered through into lower fuel and energy costs, meaning that a balance of only 14 per cent of heavy side manufacturers and eight per cent of light side firms reported an increase in costs in 4Q. Wages and salaries remained the standout inflationary pressure, however, as shortages of skilled labour pushed up wage bills.

“Encouragingly, both heavy-side and light-side product manufacturers displayed optimism over the outlook for the year ahead. A balance of 43 per cent of heavy-side firms and 42 per cent of those on the light side anticipated that product sales will increase during 2016, driven by renewed growth in international sales and domestic activity, led by the private housing, offices and infrastructure sectors in particular.  We forecast output growth of five per cent, seven and 7.9 per cent, respectively in these sectors in 2016.”