Larger firms increase their share of residential building activity

Consolidation in New Zealand’s residential construction industry has resumed since 2011 as building activity has recovered from the Global Financial Crisis. In 2017, the 100 largest firms made up almost 40% of consents, although that figure slipped to 37% in the March 2018 year. We had expected this trend of consolidation to take place, but it contrasts with a declining market share for the top 100 firms in Australia. Does this apparent fragmentation of the market in Australia foreshadow a similar change for New Zealand?

RBNZ’s risky assumption clouds OCR outlook

The August Monetary Policy Statement was the most influential yet under new Governor Adrian Orr, even though there was no change to the official cash rate (OCR). Mr Orr pushed out expectations for a rates hike until 2020, sending the New Zealand dollar sharply lower.

But it was the Governor’s assertion that rates could and would move lower, if weak indicators persist, that is both his biggest warning and most questionable stance.

Another construction firm bites the dust

The placement of Ebert Construction in receivership continues the trail of woe in the non-residential construction industry. Businesses in the industry seem to be facing ongoing profitability problems, as reflected by the difficulties experienced by Fletcher Building and Hawkins (among others) over the last couple of years. Yet these problems are occurring despite total construction activity growing by an average of 5.6%pa since mid-2011.

Trump’s tariffs threaten to start a trade war

Last month, US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, alongside tariffs on over US$34b of Chinese imports. Taking into account tariffs imposed earlier this year, about US$90b of Chinese imports to the US are now covered, with threats that all US$505b of Chinese imports could yet be hit.

What drives aggregates freight?

Aggregates – various forms of crushed rock – are used for building and road construction. These materials accounted for 11% of total freight volumes (tonnes) in 2012/13 but tend to travel short distances. Nevertheless, with growing demand for construction materials, especially in Auckland, aggregates road freight is likely to track upwards over the years ahead.

Rising fuel prices threaten to squeeze economic growth

Motorists have been incensed this week, with the price of 91 octane petrol heading over $2.30/l in some parts of the country. Increased fuel prices aren’t yet at the highest (real) levels we’ve ever seen – but they’re close. Based on the unrest in the Middle East, fuel prices might remain elevated for some time. This will hurt more than just the classic Sunday drive, with airfares, freight costs, and eventually goods prices also needing to increase to cover higher fuel bills.

Finding a cheap place to fill up just got harder

Transport funding and how much we’ll all pay at the pump has been all the (road) rage recently. In late March, the government introduced legislation to allow Auckland Council to implement a regional fuel tax, and in early April the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport was published, signalling a 3-4c/l annual increase to petrol prices nationally.

KiwiBuild – otherwise known as “pulling numbers out of your arse”

Since Labour came into power late last year, its KiwiBuild policy has been shrouded in confusion by contradictory statements from government departments and within the government itself about exactly what the policy means for the construction sector. Phil Twyford, the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, has been adamant that “the overwhelming effect of the KiwiBuild plan will be to deliver new houses over and above what the private market is delivering.” He has been quick to downplay the possible crowding out of private sector work. Furthermore, the government had indicated that part of the policy was to buy some properties “off the plan”, yet Mr Twyford had seemingly contradicted this statement continually reiterated that KiwiBuild would result in an additional 10,000 dwellings being built per year over and above what the market would otherwise have delivered.