Construction MMI: ABI in Longest Flat Stretch Since Recession

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) dropped one point for a September MMI reading of 77.

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U.S. Construction Spending

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. construction spending in July totaled $1,288.8 billion, up 0.1% from the revised June estimate of $1,288.1 billion.

The July spending figure, however, marked a 2.7% year-over-year decline, down from $1,324.8 billion in July 2018.

Broken down by type, spending on private construction reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $963.1 billion, down 0.1% from June’s $963.7 billion.

Within private construction, residential construction reached $506.7 billion in July, up 0.6% from June’s $503.5 billion. Nonresidential construction came in at $456.4 billion in July, down 0.8% from June’s $460.2 billion.

Meanwhile, in public construction, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of spending was $325.7 billion, up 0.4% from the revised June estimate of $324.3 billion. Within public construction, educational construction reached $73.3 billion, an increase of 1.6% from the revised June estimate of $72.1 billion. Highway construction checked in at $97.0 billion, down 2.7% from the revised June estimate of $99.7 billion.

Architecture Billings Essentially Flat

The Architecture Billings Index, put out by the American Institute of Architects, posted another flat performance in July.

The ABI, which measures billings at architectural firms, checked in at 50.1 in July (anything greater than 50 indicates growth). The reading marked an increase from the previous month’s contractionary reading of 49.1.

Despite the nominal growth this month, the reading marks a growing trend this year.

“Business conditions at architecture firms remained essentially flat for the sixth consecutive month in July,” the ABI report states. “Although the ABI score of 50.1 for the month technically indicates growth, the score is barely above 50, which means that the share of firms that reported increasing firm billings for the month is just slightly higher than the share that reported decreasing billings. Overall, this six-month stretch is one of the longest periods of essentially flat billings since the end of the Great Recession.”

Broken down by region, the West led the way this month with a reading of 51.2, followed by the Midwest (48.9), South (48.3) and Northeast (48.3).

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Actual Metal Prices and Trends

Chinese rebar dropped 12.0% on a year-over-year basis, down to $507.53/mt as of Sept. 1. Chinese H-beam steel dropped 3.5% to $538.21/mt.

U.S. shredded scrap steel jumped 14.4% to $294/st.

European commercial 1050 aluminum sheet rose 1.2% to $2,393/mt.

Chinese 62% iron ore PB fines fell 4.0% to $73.20/dmt.

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