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Global viewpoint: North America’s cement markets

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Ken Simpson, Chief Economist for Associated General Contractors of America, is predicting a 10 – 15% improvement in private residential construction and about 10% in private non-residential work in the United States. He also suggests a 1 – 5% decrease in public construction projects. The PCA’s Chief Economist, Ed Sullivan, says that the expected 8% growth in cement production this year will be driven by gains in these sectors. Housing starts increased 18% in 2013, a rate that is likely to repeat this year, plus double-digit gains continuing through 2015. Sullivan suggests that a lot will depend on government leadership.

Over the border in Canada, Jim Barnes from On-Site writes in a recent article: “While the rest of Canadian industry treads warily in the face of a troubled global economy, the construction sector is still packing a punch. Some researchers predict that new construction investment will exceed CA$300 billion this year, up from last year’s net of around CA$284 billion.” The big debate at this time is the row over the proposed plan to build a CA$1 billion, 2.2 million tpa cement plant on the Gaspé peninsula in Eastern Quebec, by McInnis Cement, which is owned by the Beaudoin family’s investment arm, Beaudier. The Cement Association of Canada is said to be furious that the Quebec government will be giving almost half a billion Quebec tax dollars to a private company. It argues that there is unused capacity of about 1.3 million t in Quebec from the four existing plants. This is another scenario to watch over the coming months. The plant is expected to be onstream by 2016.

By all accounts, 2013 was a depressing year in Mexico. The economy grew by 1.1%, the lowest rate since the 2009 recession and well short of the 3.5% that President Enrique Pena Nieto expected during his first year in office. The construction sector fell into recession due in part to the unsustainable pile of debt in the country’s biggest housing construction companies. There are hopes of a recovery this year, provided funding for infrastructure projects that were promised last year is forthcoming. At the time of writing, uncertainty still hung in the air.

Written by Paul Maxwell-Cook. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the July 2014 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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