U.S. construction spending increased in March to its highest level in more than eight years and our Construction MMI shot up 15.9% along with it. Gains in home building and nonresidential construction offset a drop in government projects.
Construction spending rose 0.3% in March after a 1% gain in February, the Commerce Department said Monday. The back-to-back increases raised total spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.14 trillion, the highest level since October 2007.
Residential construction grew at a 14.8% annual pace in the first three months of the year. It was one of the few sources of strength in a quarter in which the economy grew at an annual rate of just 0.5% — the slowest pace in two years.
Aluminum, steel scrap and copper all saw gains on the index, moves that are in line with the broad metals mix used in nonresidential and residential construction here in the U.S. In China, numbers are similarly positive.
Chinese housing data for March showed another increase in home sales, putting a dent in China’s housing oversupply and helping the construction reset there. As lower rates and yields work with a lag, sales growth could stay strong in China this year. A reduction in the requirement for a down payment by the central government is also underpinning increasing sales.
While China’s manufacturing purchasing managers index from Caixin Media and Markit Economics fell to 49.4, missing economists’ estimates for 49.8 and down from 49.7 in March, the construction numbers in the People’s Republic remain strong and could, theoretically, pick up the slack this year if manufacturing there remains depressed.
A total of 83.19 million metric tons of iron ore was discharged at Chinese ports during April, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Thomson Reuters Commodity Research and Forecasts.
This was up from the 81.76 mmt offloaded in March, suggesting that China’s iron ore import volumes will show an increase when preliminary customs data is released in the next few days.
China is back to producing steel at a high rate. Even zombie mills have come back from the dead. While this might not be good for the oversupply situation, it is a good thing for construction estimators and procurement professionals looking for as many options as possible to fulfill orders and reduce prices via competition.
Actual Construction Material Prices
U.S. Shredded scrap increased from $204 per ton in April to $255 per ton this month, a huge 25% jump. Chinese rebar similarly leaped from $372.13 a metric ton in April to $444.76 this month, an increase of 22%. Chinese aluminum bar increased from $1.814.14 a metric ton in April to $2,052.39 this month, an increase of 13%.