October 20, 2010 / 4:02 AM / 9 years ago

U.S. architecture billings highest since Jan '08

* September ABI up 2.2 pts to 50.4, best since 2008

* Project inquiries index highest since 2007

* Uptick hints at sustained construction recovery: AIA

NEW YORK, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A widely followed indicator of U.S. construction activity rose last month to its highest level since January 2008, suggesting a nascent construction recovery may have momentum, an architects trade group said on Wednesday.

The September Architecture Billings Index was up 2.2 points to 50.4, marking the fourth consecutive month of increases, the American Institute of Architects said.

The score reflects a rise in demand for design services, as any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, the AIA said.

“The strong upturn in design activity in the commercial and industrial sector certainly suggests that this upturn can possibly be sustained,” said Kermit Baker, AIA’s chief economist. “But we will need to see consistent improvement over the next few months in order to feel comfortable about the state of the design and construction industry.”

The AIA’S separate, less predictive, project inquiries index rose to 62.3, from 54.6 in August, reaching its best level since July 2007. Project inquiries typically produce a higher reading than actual billings because multiple architecture firms bid on the same work.

The billings index is an indicator of construction spending nine to 12 months in the future. It is regularly cited by companies that sell into the sector as a reliable gauge of demand.

Most diversified industrial companies get at least some revenue from nonresidential construction, selling either machinery used in construction or the components of a building: elevators, electrical and lighting systems, heating and cooling and security networks, for example.

A partial list includes Honeywell International Inc (HON.N), Tyco International Ltd TYC.N, Ingersoll-Rand Plc (IR.N), Johnson Controls Inc (JCI.N), Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), Deere & Co (DE.N), Terex Corp (TEX.N), Emerson Electric Co (EMR.N), Parker Hannifin Corp (PH.N), Manitowoc Co (MTW.N), Oshkosh Corp (OSK.N), ITT Corp (ITT.N) and Eaton Corp (ETN.N). (Reporting by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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