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Materials Prices Increase, Glass Prices in Tow

The cost of construction materials rose 0.9 percent in February, more than double the 0.4 percent rise in January, according information from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America in Arlington, Va. The unadjusted percent change in flat glass prices from January to February was up 0.2 percent, and from February 2011 to February 2012 was up 1.0 percent, according to the February Producer Price Index.

In January, flat glass prices went down 1.0 percent from December 2011 to January 2012.

"Prices for a wide range of construction inputs rose sharply in February, threatening to put contractors out of business and leave public projects underfunded unless materials can be ordered before prices jump further," says Ken Simonson, chief economist at AGC. "Contractors had finally begun to cover the modest increases of the last few months but now many of them are facing increases they may not be able to afford, given the industry's meager margins."

The import price for glass and glassware went down 0.3 percent from January to February, but went up 3.5 percent from February 2011 to February 2012, according to the February Import and Export Prices Indexes. The export price for the same went down 0.1 percent from January to February and down 0.4 percent from February 2011 to February 2012.

This is in keeping with recent trends. The import price for glass and glassware went up 4.4 percent from January 2011 to January 2012, while the export price for the same went down 0.3 percent over the same period of time.

Glass and glassware includes float glass, safety glass, lab glass and a range of other glass products, according to information from the International Price Program office in Washington, D.C.

"While the U.S. economy has been firming, there continues to be signs of economic softening elsewhere in the world, including China, India and much of Europe," says Anirban Basu, chief economist at Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. in Arlington, Va. "This economic slowdown would limit the growth in global demand for construction materials, which opens up the possibility that U.S. construction could recover without corresponding increases in certain input prices."

Glazing contractors have continued to experience hard times as well, as two, CBO Glass of Alden, N.Y., and City Glass & Mirror of St. Petersburg, Fla., recently were taken to court by the International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund for alleged breach of contract and unpaid dues.

April 9, 2012

by Sahely Mukerji

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