U.S. national Portland cement shipments in March totaled 7.935 million, (Mt) short tons. For the three months total (3MMT), ending March, cement shipments were up 2.8% year on year, (y/y).
Figure 1 presents a map of the U.S. by census region. The tonnage values are in 3MMT and the percentage change is 3MMT y/y. Green denotes growth, red means decline. Shipment volume for the total U.S. market was up 2.8%, 3MMT y/y with shipments of 20.34Mt for the 3 months ending March 2018 compared to 19.8Mt for the same period last year.
The largest consuming region was the West South Central with 5.05Mt, down 1.9%, 3MMT y/y. The region with the second largest 3MMT consumption of 4.527Mt was the South Atlantic. Shipments in the South Atlantic decreased by 3.7%, 3MMT y/y. The third highest consuming region was the Pacific, posting a strong 52.2% gain 3MMT y/y to 3.427Mt. The East North Central regions’ consumption fell 9.1%, 3MMT y/y. The Mountain zone region posted a strong 12.3%, 3MMT y/y growth, consuming 2.186 Mt of cement. The West North Central’s cement consumption was down 17.5% 3MMT y/y to 1.026Mt. The Middle-Atlantic recorded a decrease of 9.5%, 3MMT y/y, with 1.179Mt of cement consumed in the three months ending March. The East South Central cement consumption was down 7.1% 3MMT y/y to 1.001 Mt, while New England’s three month volume was 0.351Mt, falling 4.0%, 3MMT y/y.
Figure 2 shows the three month moving average shipments in tons per month on the left-hand Y axis and the 12 month moving total on the right-hand Y axis. Note that 12 month moving total, (12MMT) growth has plateaued after steadily rising since the recession ended.
In the past cement consumption has shown a strong correlation with reinforcing steel usage. The historic ratio of rebar to cement has been between of 8 and 9%. In 2017 cement shipments totaled 101,310 Mt. Thus the range of expected consumption of rebar should be in the range of 8,104 to 9,918MT. Actual rebar consumption in 2017 was 8,577MT or 8.5%, right in the middle.
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. Portland cement shipment data comes from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Shipment data is two months in arrears.