January 18, 2011 / 6:50 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. architecture billings highest since Nov '07

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(Embargoed to Midnight Et Tonight)

* December ABI up 2.2 pts to 54.2

* Inquiries index up 1.2 pts to 62.6

* Construction industry moving toward recovery

NEW YORK, Jan 19 (Reuters) - An index of spending on U.S. architecture services, a leading indicator of nonresidential construction activity, reached its best level since November 2007 last month, suggesting a U.S. building recovery is gaining traction, an architects' trade group said on Wednesday.

The December architecture billings index rose more than 2 points last month to 54.2, from 52.0, reflecting increasing demand for design services, according to the American Institute of Architects.

A separate index of new project inquiries was up 1.2 points to 62.6, on a scale where any number above 50 indicates rising demand.

"This is more promising news that the design and construction industry is continuing to move toward a recovery," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

The billings index is considered an indicator of construction activity nine to 12 months in the future, and is widely tracked by companies that generate sales from the construction sector.

Most diversified industrial companies get at least some revenue from nonresidential construction, selling machinery used for erecting buildings or components such as elevators or electrical and cooling systems.

A partial list includes Honeywell International Inc (HON.N), Tyco International Ltd TYC.N, Johnson Controls (JCI.N), Eaton Corp (ETN.N), Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), Deere & Co (DE.N) and Terex Corp (TEX.N). European companies, like Philips (PHG.AS), Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Schneider Electric (SCHN.PA), and lock maker Assa Abloy (ASSAb.ST) also participate in the sector.

Reporting by Nick Zieminski

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