THE GROWTH in retail prices of construction materials in the National Capital Region (NCR) picked up in April, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Thursday.

The PSA reported that the NCR’s construction materials retail price index rose 1.3% year on year in April, against growth of 1.2% in March.

The growth recorded in April was the highest in four months or since the 1.4% growth rate in December.

Contributing to last month’s increase were faster growth in carpentry materials (1.8% from 1.5% in March), painting materials and related components (0.9% from 0.8%), plumbing materials (0.7% from 0.5%), and miscellaneous construction materials (1.2% from 1.1%).

Unchanged were the price growth rates for tinsmithry materials (1.8%) and electrical materials (0.5%).

Slowing down was growth in the retail price of masonry materials to 1.6% from 1.7% previously.

Retail construction materials prices reflect demand for materials for small-scale or even DIY construction projects, as opposed to wholesale prices, which point to procurement activity by large construction companies undertaking major works, though analysts believe the decisive factor is logistical in nature. 

“Restrictions on mobility of goods and services has forced construction material costs higher and although we’ve noted a gradual relaxation of these curbs, we have also noted the strong performance of public-sector construction as well as a pickup in CPI (consumer price index) inflation for goods and services for routine household maintenance,” ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in an e-mail.

“Thus, we can say the recent upward trajectory in construction prices is driven in large part by logistical bottlenecks compounded by modest demand from public construction as well as private sector individuals who may be conducting some home improvement during the protracted lockdowns,” he added.

The economy contracted 4.2% in the first quarter, against the 8.3% decline in the fourth quarter of 2020. A year earlier, it had contracted 0.7%. During the 2021 first quarter, public construction grew 26.2% following consecutive quarterly declines of 27.1% and 17.7% in the third and fourth quarter of 2020, respectively.

The Department of Budget and Management reported a year on year 41.1% increase in public infrastructure spending to P87.7 billion in March, against the P62.2-billion spent a year earlier. The March total was also 56.4% higher than the February level.

Headline inflation steadied at 4.5% in April from March, according to the PSA. The sub-index for furnishings, household equipment, and routine household maintenance rose 2.1% in April from 1.9% the preceding month. This component accounts for 2.9% of the CPI basket. — Lourdes O. Pilar