PCA’s Sullivan factors Ukraine into revised U.S. construction forecast

Sources: Portland Cement Association, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

Portland Cement Association Chief Economist Ed Sullivan cites the potential for a dip in cement consumption and concrete output attributable to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. At a joint luncheon in San Antonio during the PCA and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association 2022 conventions, he offered three scenarios for U.S. shipments through 2024:

War. Conflict expands beyond Ukraine borders; against 2021 cement consumption levels (up 4.1 percent from prior year), shipments decline 0.8 percent and 5.8 percent in 2022-2023, but rebound with a 2.3 percent gain in 2024.

Baseline. Conflict is confined to Ukraine borders; cement demand holds for 1.2 percent increase in 2022, drops 0.8 percent next year, and rebounds with a 2.0 percent gain in 2024.

Everything Works. Diplomatic solution to conflict; 2022-2024 cement shipments climb 3.0 percent, 2.8 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

The scenarios would equate to U.S. powder consumption ranging from about 108 million metric tons to just over 120 million metric tons annually over the three-year window. Beyond the Ukraine factor, Sullivan underscored other developments shaping near-term cement demand: Continued decline of Covid-19 infection and death rates; residential market softening, with 2022 growth projected at 8 percent, half that of 2021, and subsiding the next two years; gradual escalation of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act transportation funding, especially for 2023-2024; and, continued caution surrounding nonresidential building, especially retail properties.

Geopolitical matters, federal monetary policy, and labor markets, moreover, compelled his conclusion: “There is so much risk in this forecast.”