Construction MMI: U.S. construction spending falls 2.9%, housing starts drop 30.2%

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) gained 2.9% this month.

U.S. construction spending

U.S. construction spending in April reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,346.2 billion, down 2.9% from the revised March estimate of $1,386.6 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

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The April spending figure, however, was up 3.0% from the April 2019 estimate of $1,307.1 billion.

Through the first four months of this year, construction spending amounted to $412.5 billion, up 7.1% from the $385.2 billion during the same period in 2019.

Under private construction, spending came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,004.1 billion, down 3.0% from March. Within private construction, residential construction came in at a rate of $536.8 billion in April, down 4.5% from March. Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $467.3 billion in April, or down 1.3% from March.

As for public construction, spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $342.1 billion, down 2.5% from the revised March estimate of $351.0 billion.

Within public construction, educational construction spending came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $78.6 billion, down 2.3% from March. Highway construction checked in at $106.1 billion, down 5.2% from March.

Housing starts fall 30.2% in April

Privately owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000, which marked a 30.2% decline from the revised March estimate of 1,276,000 and a decline of 29.7% from the April 2019 rate of 1,267,000.

Single-family housing starts in April came in at a rate of 650,000, down 25.4% from March.

For units in buildings with five units or more, the April rate came in at 234,000.

ABI hits all-time low of 29.3

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), released monthly by the American Institute of Architects, hit what was then an all-time low of 33.3 last month.

This month, the ABI fell even further, recording a new all-time low of 29.4 (any reading less than 50 indicates a contraction in architecture billings).

“Following last month’s precipitous decline, billings at architecture firms sank even lower in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a severe impact on firm business,” this month’s ABI report states. “The ABI score declined to 29.3, a new all-time low for the index (a score below 50 indicates decreasing billings), with more than half of responding firms reporting a further decline in their firm billings from March to April. Inquiries into new work also remained extremely low in April, although modestly fewer firms reported a decline in inquiries than in March. However, immediate prospects for new work remain bleak, as the value of new design contracts also remained extremely low.”

By region, the West posted an ABI reading of 38.1 and was trailed by the Midwest (31.2), South (31.1) and Northeast (23.0).

This month’s ABI survey asked firms about their participation in the government’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) — part of the CARES Act — designed to aid businesses keep up with payroll expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions.

According to the survey, 84% of responding architecture firms indicated they had applied for PPP funding, with an additional 2% indicating they intended to apply.

The average loan amount received by the responding firms was $395,000, the report stated.

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Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese rebar price rose 1.4% month over month to $493.20/mt as of June 1, while Chinese H-beam steel ticked up 2.5% to $514.22/mt.

U.S. shredded scrap steel fell 4.6% to $268/st.

European commercial 1050 aluminum sheet rose 3.2% to $2,106.10/mt.

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