NEMA’s Lighting Systems Index increased in the fourth quarter of 2012 after a decline in the third quarter, growing 1.9 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis and by 3.3 percent on a year-over-year basis. Lighting equipment demand has struggled to gain traction since the recovery began and remains well below the levels observed during the previous economic expansion. For the second consecutive quarter, miniature lamps and fixtures registered solid gains in sales value while emergency lamps, ballasts and large lamps fell further.
Lighting output gains are likely to pick up over time as construction activity gradually improves. The housing recovery remains on track as overall housing starts were roughly 25 percent higher in January on a year-over-year basis. Building permits, a typically less volatile measure, climbed more than 30 percent in January from a year ago. Total housing starts are estimated at 781,000 in 2012, 975,000 in 2013 and 1.215 million in 2014.
However, nonresidential construction was flat in 2012, with investment outlays up only a scant 0.2 percent on an annualized basis in the fourth quarter. Leading indicators such as architecture firm billings and income property prices continue to indicate that forward progress is on the horizon, but rapid and broad-based gains in activity are not likely in the cards in the near future. However, the outlook for commercial construction (including office, retail, warehouse, dining/drinking establishments) is more promising for electrical equipment manufacturers. While the sector has seen sporadic increases over the last two years, the gains have been inconsistent. Steadier progress is expected this year, though, with growth accelerating heading into 2014.
NEMA is the association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Its member companies manufacture a diverse set of products including power transmission and distribution equipment, lighting systems, factory automation and control systems, and medical diagnostic imaging systems. Worldwide annual sales of NEMA-scope products exceed $120 billion.