Cranes a gauge of activity

The number of cranes on Melbourne's horizon is increasing in defiance of the weaker conditions in the construction sector.

The number of cranes on Melbourne's horizon is increasing in defiance of the weaker conditions in the construction sector.

The latest figures from the Australian Construction Industry Forum show modest growth is expected in construction activity over the next two years.

In real terms, engineering, commercial and residential building work is tipped to grow by 3 per cent in 2013-14 and 2.3 per cent in 2014-15.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the good news was that a pick-up in commercial and residential building should offset softer engineering work.

"The latest views from ACIF will soothe jangled nerves, especially worries that the economy will weaken markedly following the peaking of the construction phase of the resources boom," he said.

The Rider Levett Bucknall's crane index is a practical bellwether of Australia's building activity.

The biannual index tracks the number of construction cranes on the capital city skylines throughout Australia as an indication of the workload.

Rider Levett Bucknall director Stephen Ballesty said that at first glance the current numbers of cranes within five kilometres of all major central business districts indicated increased workload from October 2012.

However, future workload remains uncertain across most markets.

Mr Ballesty said the cranes on the city horizons would be boosted by the fact that sentiment in Australia's property industry had hit an 18-month high, buoyed by increased confidence in the housing market and the Reserve Bank of Australia's continued support of low interest rates.

According to the firm's index, there are 17 visible cranes within Melbourne's CBD. Another 40 cranes are visible within a five-kilometre radius.

Major sites include Far East Corp's Upper West Side stage two, Emporium, City West Police Complex, Phoenix Apartments, Scots Church redevelopment, Melbourne Park redevelopment, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and a Hickory Group development.

South of the Yarra, Contexx, Multiplex, Hamilton Marino and Built all have apartment buildings under way, while at Docklands the cranes can be seen at Mirvac and MAB's residential development sites.

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