Total cement shipments fell by 0.4% on a 3 month moving total (3MMT), year on year (y/y) basis but were up 2.3%, 3MMT y/y over for the period ending February 2017.
Portland cement shipment data comes from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Shipment data is two months in arrears. As you might expect there is a good relationship between the consumption of cement and the consumption of reinforcing steel (rebar). In the past we have witnessed a rebar to cement ratio in the range of 8% to 9%. Figure 1 shows the three month total shipments along with the three month y/y change for the nine U.S. census regions. The center section of the country plus the Middle Atlantic all recorded negative growth 3MMT y/y ending February. The region with the largest decline was the South Central at -7.0%, despite the percentage decline, this region remains the largest consumer of cement at 5,378,000 tons (3 month total, December, January and February). The region with the highest percentage y/y growth was the East North Central 76.6%, (1,469,000 tons 3MMT). The South Atlantic, which was close behind with 7.3% 3MMT y/y growth and second in tons consumed at 5,056,000. Figure 2 illustrates the census regions historic growth from 2004 to present. The two volume leading regions include the West South Central (18.2% of US shipments over the past 3 months) and the South Atlantic (17.1% of US shipments over the past 3 months). The South Atlantic region has been picking up while the West South Central has fallen-off since the oil sector slowed down. Energy is starting show some signs of a rebound, so growth will likely recover in the months ahead. The third largest consuming region over the past three months was the North East with 15.4%, followed by the Pacific region at 12.4% and the West North Central at 12.3% of the US total.
At Gerdau we routinely monitor Portland cement shipments because of its strong relationship to the consumption of rebar and because cement shipments give an excellent on how the overall construction (infrastructure, residential and non-residential buildings), market is performing.