Wednesday, March 11, 2015

11/3/15: Building & Construction Activity in Ireland: 2014

Irish Building and Construction industry production indices are out for Q4 2014 and full year 2014, so here is a quick look.

Quarterly data:

  • All building and construction activity rose 6% y/y in Q4 2014 by value and 4.5% y/y by volume.Compared to series low, value is up 55% and volume is up 51%. However, compared to historical peak, value is down 70.2% still and volume is down 71.8%. Thus, the annual rise is not impressive: single digit growth off the base that is so low, we are still 36.3% below Q4 2000 in value and 52.8% below Q4 2000 in volume. Worse, Q4 2014 marks the slowest annual growth in value and volume since Q1 2013.

  • Building ex-civil engineering index is up 9.8% y/y in Q4 2014 in value terms and is up 8.6% in volume terms. The series still trend 76% below historical peak in value terms and down 78 in volume terms. Compared to Q4 2000, the series are down 51.3% in value terms and 64% below in volume terms.
  • Residential building production is up massive 36.9% y/y in value terms and 35.2% in volume terms. Again, however, the base of activity is low: the series are still down 76.0% on peak in value terms and down 88.9% in volume terms. Compared to Q4 2000, residential building activity is down 70.6% in value terms and down 79.3% in volume terms.
  • Non-residential building activity fell 3.9% y/y in Q4 2014 in value terms and is down 5.17% in volume terms. The series are 15.3% below Q4 2000 levels of activity in value terms and are down 30.4% in volume terms.
  • Civil engineering activity - the only area of activity where we have been performing relatively better over recent years - posted a decline of 1.6% y/y in Q4 2014 in terms of value of activity and a drop of 2.88% y/y in terms of volume of activity. However, compared to Q4 2000, the series still run 64% ahead in terms of value and 20.6% up in terms of volume.

On annual basis, 2014 was a better year for value of activity compared to volume.

  • Across all building and construction sub-sectors, activity in 2014 was up 9.36% y/y in terms of value of production and up 8.29 in terms of volume. Both value and volume y/y growth rates were weaker in 2014 compared to 2013. Relative to annual averages for 2000-20002 period, activity across all sectors of construction is down 47% in value terms and down 58.7% in volume terms.
  • Residential building activity in 2014 rose 19.0% y/y in value terms (improving on 11.5% growth in 2013) and by 17.5% in volume terms (also improving on 10.8% growth in 2013). However, as with quarterly figures earlier, activity is growing of extremely low base. Compared to 2000-2002 annual averages, 2014 activity in this sub-sector is still down 78.3% in value terms and down 69.0% in volume terms.
  • Non-residential construction activity is up 8.3% y/y in value terms in 2014 (much worse than 19.4% rise recorded in 2013) and in volume terms activity is up 7.2% (also worse than 18.5% rise in 2013). Full year 2014 activity is still well below 2000-2002 annual averages (down 21.4% in value terms and down 31.7% in volume terms).

To conclude: 

  1. Some welcome improvements in the building and construction sector, driven primarily by residential construction activities, but coming off extremely low base of activity in 2013. 
  2. Key issue is how much of 2014 activity uplift was driven by planning permissions secured prior to major regulatory changes that are holding back current permissions activity. 
  3. Another key issue is the apparent significant slowdown in 2014 rates of growth in activity compared to 2013 rates of growth. 
  4. Third issue: despite still low levels of activity in the sector, builders appear to be chasing higher margins on price / value side, instead of lower cost projects.Thus value of activities is rising faster than volume for the second year in a row. If this scenario is sustained into 2015, we are unlikely to see construction sector gains translating into alleviating price appreciation pressures in the rental and house purchasing markets.

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