AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File
JOHANNESBURG – Civil construction activity levels were expected to decline still further early next year from already extremely low current levels.

This was one of the conclusions that was reached following the release yesterday of the latest FNB-Bureau for Economic Research civil confidence index.

It revealed that confidence in the civil construction industry improved by a single index point in the fourth quarter of this year, but remained below 20 index points on a 100-point scale for the sixth consecutive quarter.

The current index level means more than 80 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with prevailing business conditions.

Jason Muscat, a senior economic analyst at FNB, said that while confidence remained stable “at a very low level”, growth in construction activity deteriorated noticeably on top of declining demand for most of the past 18 months.

The index measuring the lack of new demand as a constraint on civil contractors, a proxy for the state of order books, remained above 90 percent.

Muscat said this meant there was no respite in the offing, with civil construction activity likely to have declined this quarter and no sign of improvement over the short-term, which was “a very downbeat outlook indeed”.

He said the fact civil contractors remained predominantly pessimistic, as reflected by the index, was easily justified by the underlying indices, particularly relating to activity.