Housing slump trickles down to material prices

Published October 2, 2006

I* last year's building boom, asphalt, concrete, steel and plastic pipe were as good as gold.

And priced like gold, too.

But look what's happening: Slumping home sales are throwing more materials on the market.

Prices appear to be easing. Suppliers return developers' calls: If you need it, we have it.

Sound supply reasons explain some of the market shift: Asphalt is a petroleum product, and oil prices are falling. Cheap foreign cement is more plentiful.

But don't leave out slower demand. With home construction down roughly 20 percent, the building materials market is no longer overheating.

Nevertheless, measured year over year, building supply prices have delivered nasty shocks.

Asphalt rose 77 percent, plastic pipe 20 percent and ready-mix concrete 12 percent. Worst of all was copper. Its price shot up 81 percent.

And you wonder why plumbers are less keen on copper pipe?