In conjunction with its fourth-quarter earnings, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) provided investors with its 2013 demand growth forecast for its end markets. Among the more interesting areas where it sees strong demand growth is in the commercial building and construction markets. Alcoa expects demand to rise 4.5% globally in 2013, with China alone seeing an even more impressive rise of 8%-10%.
While this demand growth is important to Alcoa's aluminum business over the next year, it's not the only industry that'll benefit from these projections. Other critical components to the commercial building and construction markets include copper, coal, and chemicals. Let's take a look at how each could benefit from Alcoa's forecast.
An important and versatile metal, copper is a key construction component. It has a variety of industrial uses such as for electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, as well as in heating and ventilation systems. Given Alcoa's forecast, copper miners should do well over the coming year, especially since China accounts for about 40% of the world's copper demand.
This could mean a bright 52 weeks for companies like Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX). As the world's second-largest copper producer, few companies benefit from its rise more than Freeport-McMoRan. While the company recently announced it was diversifying into energy production, copper is still what will drive its business over the next year.
While low natural gas prices are causing its decline in the U.S., coal is still an important commodity in China. It's used in both steel production and power generation and is increasingly being imported. According to China Customs, the country's net coal imports from January through August totaled 196 million tonnes, a 43% increase over the prior year. One reason for that: The country's coal-fueled electricity generation rose 1% from January through September 2012 over the corresponding prior-year period, according to the China National Energy Administration.
One company that stands to benefit from this trend is Peabody Energy (OTC:BTU). While coal is expensive to transport, the company has a leg up on its peers because of its Australian coal production. It can more easily ship coal to not only China but to India as well. That's important because China and India are expected to account for more than 75% of the coal-based primary energy demand growth projected from 2009 to 2035.
The chemical industry accounted for $13.6 billion worth of U.S. exports to China in 2011, ranking behind crop production and computers and electronics. Chemicals are important to the commercial building and construction markets, with uses in materials such as insulation, performance coatings, and sealants.
One chemical company benefiting from the growth of China is DuPont (NYSE:DD). In 2011, the company had $3.3 billion of sales in China which represented 8.7% of its total revenue. Because of the diversity of DuPont's business, not all of those sales were related to its chemicals business. However, China will represent an important market for the growth of the company's chemical-related business segments.
Alcoa's bullishness on China's commercial building and construction markets is welcome news for investors. Not only does it bode well for the company's aluminum sales, but it means there should be healthy demand for other key industrial inputs as well. Those companies positioned to take advantage of this growth in China should prosper over the coming year.