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Rebar market upbeat on construction for '14

Keywords: Tags  rebar, rebar outlook, construction market, rebar mill, Associated General Contractors of America, Gerdau Long Steel North America, Samuel Frizell

NEW YORK — Rebar mills and buyers are optimistic about the 2014 construction market and expect more robust activity after a year-end spurt of business in 2013 that saw prices and demand rise.

"We’re doing better business. This year we’ll have a pretty good shipping year. ... The economy is continuing to grow and next year for us will be better," according to one mill source.

"It’s a much better outlook this year than it has been the last couple," one rebar distributor in the Midwest said. "My order books are stronger. I’ve got customers talking about projects they’re going to do. There are jobs that have finally started to go through the stream. People are hiring people, they’re spending more money. It’s not like it was five years ago, but it’s better in 2013 than 2012, and it’ll be better next year."

Several forecasts of construction activity indicate growth next year, but not all of the indications are positive. The architectural billings index, for instance, a leading indicator for construction markets, was down in November at 49.8, indicating a slight decline in design activity for future construction projects. The index was positive for the prior six months.

Construction employers added 17,000 jobs in November as the sector’s employment hit the highest level since August 2009, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

The improvement will likely be reflected in 2014 rebar purchases, most sources said.

"From a rebar point of view, commercial construction seems to be improving moderately. It’s not like a windfall where you have in North Dakota with the shale boom, but it’s noticeably better than (gross domestic product) growth—if you look at percentage growth, we’re improving a little beyond that," a source at a West Coast rebar distributor said of his sales.

"The market has improved in the second half of 2013, but it is still well under peak levels and relatively flat relative to 2012," a spokeswoman for Tampa, Fla.-based Gerdau Long Steel North America said. "The outlook is favorable. Demand for U.S. products will pick up next year and in 2015 as the economy gains traction."

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