US: Construction Spending


Mon Jan 04 09:00:00 CST 2016

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Construction Spending - M/M change 0.7% 0.5% to 1.2% -0.4% 1.0% 0.3%
Construction Spending - Y/Y change 10.5% 13.0%

Highlights
Construction spending had been a highlight of the U.S. economy but less so with November's report where the headline fell 0.4 percent, far below the Econoday consensus for plus 0.7 percent. The year-on-year gain for spending, at 10.5 percent, is the lowest since April last year. Today's report also includes sharp downward revisions to prior months, the result of a processing error going back to January last year. October's initial 1.0 percent monthly gain is now cut 7 tenths to 0.3 percent while September is now at plus 0.2 percent vs an initial plus 0.6 percent.

The processing error, unfortunately for the housing outlook, is centered in the residential component where prior strength has been cut back. Still, residential spending rose 0.3 percent for a second month in a row that follows September's very solid 1.2 percent gain. Spending on new single-family homes has been rising strongly with the year-on-year rate at a very solid plus 9.3 percent. Spending on multi-family homes did fall in November but has been in fact booming in prior months, up 24.5 percent year-on-year.

Spending on nonresidential construction has also been solid, down in November but with the year-on-year rate at plus 13.6 percent. Public spending has been led by the educational component, up 15.2 percent year-on-year, with highway spending behind at plus 5.6 percent.

A processing error of this size is rare for government data but even after the downward revisions, construction spending remains a central plus and a reminder that domestic demand is the economy's most important driver.

Definition
The dollar value of new construction activity on residential, non-residential, and public projects. Data are available in nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.



Description
Construction spending has a direct bearing on stocks, bonds and commodities because it is a part of the economy that is affected by interest rates, business cash flow and even federal fiscal policy. In a more specific sense, trends in the construction data carry valuable clues for the stocks of home builders and large-scale construction contractors. Commodity prices such as lumber are also very sensitive to housing industry trends.

Businesses only put money into the construction of new factories or offices when they are confident that demand is strong enough to justify the expansion. The same goes for individuals making the investment in a home.

A portion of construction spending is related to government projects such as education buildings as well a highways and streets. While investors are more concerned with private construction spending, the government projects put money in the hands of laborers who then have more money to spend on goods and services.

On a technical note, construction outlays for private residential, private nonresidential, and government are key inputs into three components of GDP--residential investment, nonresidential structures investment, and the structures portion of government expenditures.

That is why construction spending is a good indicator of the economy's momentum.