U.S. architecture billings index up in July: AIA

NEW YORK Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:28am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A leading indicator of U.S. nonresidential construction spending rebounded in July but remains at a level that indicates depressed demand, an architects' trade group said on Wednesday.

The Architecture Billings Index rebounded more than 5 points last month to a reading of 43.1, reversing a similar decline in June, according to the American Institute of Architects.

The index has remained below 50, indicating contraction in demand for design services, since January 2008. Its lowest recent reading was 33.3 in January.

Credit remains tight and government stimulus funds have had little visible impact on project activity, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said.

"There has been too much contraction in recent months to get overly optimistic about business conditions," Baker said.

All four U.S. construction sectors tracked by the group, and all four geographic regions, remained below 50 in July.

A measure of inquiries for projects dipped to 50.3, from 53.8, but remained above 50 for the fifth straight month.

Nonresidential construction includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions. The AIA's Billings Index, which began in 1995, is considered a measure of construction spending nine to 12 months in the future.

Companies that sell to construction markets include diversified manufacturer Honeywell International Inc (HON.N), lighting maker Acuity Brands Inc (AYI.N) and electrical components maker Thomas & Betts Corp TNB.N, as well as heating and cooling systems makers Ingersoll-Rand Co (IR.N) and Johnson Controls Inc (JCI.N).

Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), Deere & Co (DE.N), Terex Corp (TEX.N), Illinois Tool Works Inc (ITW.N), Parker-Hannifin Corp. (PH.N) and Eaton Corp (ETN.N) also participate in the sector.

(Reporting by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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