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By Bill Fishlock.The strongest message to emerge from the current round of annual general meetings is that, however unclear the outlook, the pace of recovery has accelerated in recent months.At South-East builders merchant, Erith, for example, the firm's sales in the first four months were 16 per cent up on the same period last year.In April they were 23 per cent up on the month a year ago.Meanwhile at Hewden Stuart, chairman Sir Matthew Goodwin told the agm last week that the firm has seen turnover since February 1 continuing to run strongly ahead of the same period last year.Moreover, profits in February and March were 'very substantially' ahead of last year.Sir Matthew said the company had even seen 'signs in the past few weeks of some marginal improvement in hire rates, though this is not widespread'.RMC chairman Jim Owen is less enthusiastic about the UK construction industry scene, which he reckons is poised for steady but unspectacular recovery. But he is optimistic on the group's overseas markets.He believes German prospects remain good with high levels of activity in the the east compensating for a slowdown in the west.Tarmac chief executive Neville Simms said: 'We are now seeing firmer indications of recovery in the UK led by house building.'The firm said it plans to use its leadership in quarry products to improve pricing and that profits are recovering at Topmix, its ready-mix concrete firm.Alas, most of this upbeat news - which included profit upgrades at George Wimpey last week - is leaving the stock market largely indifferent.The threat of higher interest rates next year continues to cloud sentiment. CONSTRUCTION NEWS