Friday, April 10, 2015

10/4/15: Irish Construction Sector Performance: a European Perspective

Irish Construction Sector has been a positive contributor to GDP over the second half of 2014, prompting some - in fact many - media outlets to herald the return of the Men in Hard Hats. You can be excused for wondering, as to how many men (and women) in hard hats are out there working today, given there is little visible activity on the ground, but the numbers do not lie. Or so they say.

Here is the latest data from the Eurostat giving construction sector activity in terms comparable across the EU states.

Actual activity for all building and construction sectors in Ireland over Q4 2014 was running some 53.2% below the average activity levels recorded in 2000-2002. Over the course of 2014, average activity in the sector in Ireland was 53.2% below the same activity over 2000-2002. Both metrics ranked Ireland as the third worst-performing construction sector in the group of euro area 15 economies.

Having risen to 111.20 in Q4 2010, the index of overall construction activity in Ireland was at the highest level since Q4 2009, but below any quarter for the period of Q1 2000-Q4 2009.

Things are even worse in the case of building activity (ex-civil engineering), where Ireland ranks second worst, on par with Portugal in the EU28. Here, Q4 2014 reading is 63.5% below 2000-2002 average and full year 2014 average reading is 69% lower than 2000-2002 average. Once again, the index is currently reading at the highest level since Q4 2009, but as above, this reading is well below any quarterly reading between Q1 2000 and Q4 2009.

Here is a chart showing relative performance to EU and EA:

Two things to note in the above:

  1. EU and EA uplift in Q4 2014 has been more pronounced than that for Ireland. 
  2. The trends are now not exactly converging, with EU and EA both pushing up, while Ireland's upward momentum appearing to be weakening once again from H1 2014 on.
One aside question is: with the above evidence at hand, can anyone explain a huge rise in the reported 'investment' in commercial property in 2014? Other than buy-to-flip strategies of the vulture funds, where is all this 'investment' going?

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