US cement consumption recovery threatened by fiscal cliff

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US: A forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA) expects a 7.5% rise in cement consumption in 2012. However, the association says that these gains could be immediately erased in 2013 if the so-called US 'fiscal cliff' is not resolved. The fiscal cliff refers to tax increases of US$400bn and federal spending cuts of US$200m currently scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2013.

If the US House of Congress resolves the fiscal cliff during its session in 2012, the PCA expects the economy to continue to grow and cement consumption in 2013 to increase by 6%. Adversely, even if Congress addresses the policies by the first quarter of 2013, this delay will cause significant economic harm and cause a 2.7% drop in cement consumption.

"Because we believe the odds for either outcome are even, we have adopted a forecasting approach that minimises up and downside risk," said Ed Sullivan, the chief economist at the PCA. "Our baseline scenario blends the two possible outcomes and projects a 1.8% increase in cement consumption in 2013."

Sullivan also reported that the longer the US Congress delays in addressing the fiscal cliff, the greater the adverse effect on economic growth and construction activity in particular. "If no action is taken by mid-2013, the country could be headed into a severe recession," said Sullivan.

According to the PCA report, cement consumption from 1 January 2012 to 30 September 2012 had increased by 10% compared to 2011, with 16 consecutive months of growth. Sullivan attributed this growth to the return of consumer confidence, a strong housing market and, most importantly, growth in employment.

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