The construction industry can expect modest relief from soaring materials prices, with the exception of the cost of cement, which is expected to peak early this year, according to analysts at the National Association of Home Builders' Construction Forecast Conference held last fall.

Several key building materials posted double-digit increases in 2004 - scrap steel (80 percent), steel mill products (43 percent), lumber (27 percent) and gypsum (20 percent). Economic experts at the conference said that the industry is currently at the "peak of a normal commodity price cycle," and that prices should begin to move "on a downward slope," although not a steep one, throughout the year.