Fed trade officials rule against Chinese solar panels
In an unanimous 6-0 decision, the U.S. International Trade Commission has determined that solar panel manufacturers in the United States have been injured by underpriced imports from China. This clears the way for tariffs and anti-dumping penalties by the U.S. Commerce Department, which has already projected it will levy countervailing duties of 24% to 36% against imported Chinese photovoltaic cell (PVC) panels.
The case was brought before the ITC by SolarWorld Industries America of Hillsboro, Ore., one of 14 manufacturers of solar panels in the United States. According to the ITC, China imports 57.1% of the $3.01 billion market in PVC solar panels in the United States.
Demand for composite, PVC decking to rise
U.S. demand for decking is forecast to rise 2.4% annually, according to a study by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. This pace represents a rebound from the declines seen between 2006 and 2011, when housing completions plummeted and residential improvement and repair expenditures contracted from their elevated 2006 base. Through 2016, decking demand will be driven by an expected advance in housing completions and continuing consumer interest in decks as a way to increase their outdoor leisure space.
Wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber decking materials are expected to experience double-digit annual gains in demand through 2016, according to the Freedonia report. Plastic decking will see the most rapid growth. Consumers are expected to opt for the material because of its durability and low-maintenance requirements. The increasing availability of cellular PVC decking that better resembles natural wood will attract more customer interest. Composite decking demand will be supported by its favorable performance properties and reputation as a “green” product that uses recycled materials.
Although wood decking will continue to account for the majority of decking demand in volume and dollars, increased demand will rise less than 1% annually through 2016. Competition from composite and plastic decking, which need less maintenance, will limit growth, the report said.
The residential market accounted for 61% of decking demand in 2011, a lower share than the historical average. The depressed level of housing completions suppressed demand, as did an unfavorable lending environment that made it more difficult for homeowners to take out home equity loans, a common method of funding such projects as deck installation and replacement. Going forward, residential decking demand is forecast to rise at the fastest pace of all markets. Rebounding housing completions will spur gains in the new residential segment, and less restrictive credit conditions will support residential improvements and repairs.
RONA profits sink in third quarter
Canadian retailer and distributor RONA reported third-quarter earnings of $5.1 million, down from $47.8 million in the same quarter last year.
Consolidated revenues for the third quarter were fairly steady at $1.34 billion, down $10.6 million or less than 1% from the third quarter of 2011.
"The main drivers of our industry were flat or down during the quarter, whether we look at consumer confidence, housing starts or resales of homes or average resale price of homes," said CEO Robert Dutton during the company’s earnings call.
Factoring into the decline were the costs of converting many of the company’s big-box retail locations into smaller, neighborhood stores. These costs totaled $25.7 million, the Boucherville, Quebec-based company said. The company has about 830 stores carrying the RONA banner, of which about 80 are large-format retailers.