* February ABI 51.0 vs. 50.9
* Inquiries index 63.4, up 2.2 pts
* Cautious clients, scarce financing are obstacles to recovery
March 21 (Reuters) - A leading indicator of U.S. construction activity edged higher in February to mark its fourth straight month at a level that suggests a coming recovery, but obstacles to a faster revival remain in place
The Architecture Billings Index rose to 51.0 in February, from 50.9 the previous month, indicating a slight increase in demand for design services, according to report issued on Wednesday by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Any measure above 50 indicates expansion and stronger construction activity nine to 12 months ahead.
A separate index of project inquiries rose to 63.4, from 61.2 the prior month, its highest level since July 2007. Since a developer can contact multiple architects for a single project, this measure is often higher than the billings index.
The AIA said clients remain cautious about breaking ground on new projects, and construction financing remains scarce for developers who are willing to pursue projects.
Most diversified industrial companies derive a portion of their sales from nonresidential construction such as office buildings, and retail and warehouse space, though sales of building components or construction equipment.
Companies exposed to the sector include Honeywell International Inc, Tyco International Ltd, Ingersoll Rand Plc, Eaton Corp, Caterpillar Inc , Deere & Co and Terex Corp. European companies such as Siemens AG, Schneider Electric SA and lock maker Assa Abloy are also active in the sector.