Construction MMI®: March Architecture Billings Remain Positive, Surcharges Rise

The American Institute of Architects‘ Architecture Billings Index came in positive, again, in March, but its relatively low increase again reflected the weak recovery in both design and construction. The March ABI score was 51.7, up from a mark of 50.4 in February.

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“Business conditions at architecture firms generally are quite healthy across the country. However, billings at firms in the Northeast were set back with the severe weather conditions, and this weakness is apparent in the March figures,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The multi-family residential market has seen its first occurrence of back-to-back negative months for the first time since 2011, while the institutional and commercial sectors are both on solid footing.”

Multi-Family Weakness

We have reported on the general weakness in multi-family residential and its effect on prices of construction materials such as structural steel and copper for much of the first quarter of 2015.

AIA prepared a video featuring Baker, recorded in a swanky Architect Magazine studio overlooking our nation’s capital, describing the macroeconomic issues facing the construction market, which include the strong dollar and the continuing shortage of skilled construction labor, in Q2 and the rest of the year.

Actual Construction Metal Prices

The week’s biggest mover on the weekly Construction MMI® was the weekly US Gulf Coast bar fuel surcharge, which saw a 2.8% increase to $0.29 per short ton. This comes on the heels of a 1.6% decline the week prior. The weekly US Midwest bar fuel surcharge rose 1.8% to $0.29 per mile after falling 2.9% during the previous week. The weekly US Rocky Mountain bar fuel surcharge rose 0.7% to $0.30 per mile after falling 1.5% during the previous week.

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In the past week, Chinese H-beam steel saw its price shift up 0.8% to CNY 2,430 ($392.06) per metric ton. US shredded scrap gained a slight 0.4% this past week, finishing at $251.00 per short ton. The Chinese low price of 62% Australian iron ore fines closed at CNY 480.00 ($77.32) per dry metric ton after a flat week. Closing at CNY 2,480 ($400.12) per metric ton, Chinese rebar remained unchanged for the week.

The price of Chinese aluminum bar rose 0.1% to CNY 13,800 ($2,226) per metric ton after falling 2.4% during the previous week. European 1050 aluminum remained essentially flat from the previous week at EUR 2,576 ($2,788) per metric ton.

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The Construction MMI® collects and weights 9 metal price points used within the construction industry to provide a unique view into construction industry price trends. For more information on the Construction MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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