Volume 33, Number 3, March 1998


Industry Outlook

by Leslie Shaver

In this regular feature, USGlass evaluates glass industry trends for the coming months. Information is gathered from various sources, including confidential industry interviews and reporting by USGlass.


Past 30 Days

According to the monthly USGlass industry survey, business figures improved throughout the country except on the West Coast. The decline in business on the west coast is attributable to the pounding the region has taken from El Nino. The rise in the Northeast was due in part to the recovery in the region from the ice storms that plagued it in January. The Rocky Mountain region also posted strong figures due to a strong market, while the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast benefitted from mild weather.

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Next 30 Days

Glass sales in March are expected to jump in every region except the Northeast, which may level off following a strong month recovering from the January ice storms. The West Coast also is expected to have a strong month, probably due to an anticipated rise in business following El Nino. The Rocky Mountain region’s growth can be attributed to a strong overall market. Business in Southeast, Midwest and Lower Plains is expected to grow at the same consistent clip seen in February.


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Privately Owned Housing Units Started

The number of new housing units started declined slightly in December to 1.51 million ending a three-month growth period of construction. December’s figure was larger than both the figures for December of 1996 and 1995. Overall, December’s figure was the third highest of 1997, behind only November and February.

Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate Thousands of Units

  1997 TOTAL 1996 TOTAL
January 1,375 1,453
February  1,554 1,514
March 1,479 1,439
April 1,483 1,511
May 1,402 1,478
June 1,503 1,490
July 1,465 1,470
August 1,395 1,533
September  1,507 1,461
October (r) 1,527 1,385
November (r)  1,531 1,486
December (p) 1,519 1,353
Average relative standard error 2% Average relative standard error 2% (r=revised; p=preliminary)


Construction Contract Values

Contracting for new construction fell two percent in December to a seasonally adjusted rate of $329 billion according to F.W. Dodge, a unit of the McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group. Residential and nonresidential building also dropped off, while nonbuilding construction rose by almost ten percent.

Monthly Contracts
Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rates, In Millions

  November 1997 December 1997 % Change
Nonresidential Building $122,585 $113,522 -7
Residential Building  $154,198 $147,263 -3
Nonbuilding Construction  $62,858 $68,304 +9
Total Construction   $336,639 $329,089 -2

Source: F.W. Dodge Division, The McGraw-Hill Companies


Total construction increased three percent in 1997, according to F.W. Dodge. Residential construction showed a slight gain in 1997, while nonresidential construction increased seven percent.


Year-To-Date Contracts
Unadjusted Totals, In Millions

  12 Months, 1996 12 Months, 1997 % Change
Nonresidential Building $119,914  $128,542 +7
Residential Building  $146,260 $149,787 +2
Nonbuilding Construction $64,837 $67,648 +4
Total Construction $331,011 $345,977 +5
Source: F.W. Dodge Division, The McGraw-Hill Companies


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.