The economy's performance has borne that out. The basic underlying fundamentals proved themselves strong, helped in no small measure by the Federal Reserve Board's oversight of interest rates, the surprisingly strong housing market, and consumers' resiliency and overall confidence.
Construction spending tread water last year, dipping 0.1 percent from 2001. Stark contrasts existed between the up markets of water and sewer; and the industrial, commercial and telecommunication sectors.
Contractors, who had anticipated a down year, found 2002 to be better than expected. They are carrying this optimism over to this year, too.
Optimism pervades the general economic outlook, as well. We're still dealing with a war on terror, and Iraq is on everyone's mind. As those external factors could affect the economy in any number of ways, forecasts have had to take them into account.
But as the Fed notched down interest rates late in 2002, the country's economy is still looking for a solid return to growth. Expectations are for a continued upward trend this year—2002 proved more resilient than forecast—but an uneven return to stability.
Welcome to Construction Equipment/Case Construction NA's 2003 Annual Report & Forecast. Construction Equipment has reported on the state of the economy and the industry with these annual reports for more than 20 years.
Each year, the report has tapped the expertise of Construction Equipment's top construction economist for an overview of the nation's economic status. Then, we report on the largest exclusive survey in the industry of equipment owners and managers. The responses from these equipment users—including building and heavy contractors, materials producers, mining and utility operations, and government-owned fleets—combined with those from rental dealers and equipment distributors provide the basis for this report on the outcome of 2002 and projections for 2003.
We mailed the survey in September, after the busy construction season, so results provide an accurate look at the state of the industry. More than 10,000 questionnaires were mailed, with some 1,700 usable questionnaires returned for an overall response rate of 17 percent.
As in past years, we promised those who received our questionnaires, and especially those who responded, that we would publish the results for the benefit of the entire industry. This special report contains those results. To those whose participation made the 2003 Annual Report & Forecast a success, we thank you.
We also thank Case Construction NA, our co-sponsor for the 2003 Annual Report & Forecast. Case is a full-line manufacturer of earthmoving equipment, and its support of this project has allowed us to publish substantial amounts of data and analysis for your use.