May 16, 2012 / 4:01 AM / in 6 years

US architecture billings index down in April-AIA

* April ABI 48.4, down 2 pts

* Inquiries index 54.4, down 2.2 pts

* Mild winter a factor

By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) - A leading indicator of U.S. construction activity fell last month to a level that indicates contraction, an architects’ trade group said on Wednesday.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) fell 2 points to 48.4 in April. Any reading below 50 indicates lower demand for design services, which predict construction activity nine to 12 months ahead.

The ABI had topped 50 for five consecutive months prior to April. Mild winter weather may have pulled some activity forward, according to the American Institute of Architects, which publishes the monthly index.

A separate measure of project inquiries was down 2.2 points to 54.4 last month. This measure, which had reached a nearly five-year high in February, is typically higher than the ABI as clients contact multiple architects for a single project.

Most diversified industrial companies derive a portion of sales from nonresidential construction such as office buildings, and retail and warehouse space through sales of building components or construction equipment.

Many cite the architecture billings as an indicator of future demand in this market.

Companies exposed to the sector include Honeywell International Inc, Tyco International Ltd, Ingersoll Rand Plc, Cummins Inc, Eaton Corp , Manitowoc Co Inc, 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.

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