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US Construction Spending

January 06, 2009 | "Barron’s Econoday"

Construction spending in November fell but not as much as feared. Construction outlays declined 0.6 percent in November, after dropping 0.4 percent in October. The November decrease was not as severe as the consensus forecast for a 1.3 percent decline. Weakness in the latest month was led by a sharp 4.2 percent decrease in private residential outlays. But the other two major components actually rose. Private nonresidential spending rose 0.7 percent while public outlays increased 1.4 percent in November.

Within the residential component, single-family construction fell 6.6 percent after a 4.5 percent decline in October. Multifamily outlays decreased 1.8 percent, following a 0.3 percent dip the month before.

On a year-on-year basis, overall construction outlays were down 3.3 percent in November.

Today’s construction outlays report shows housing continuing to deteriorate while public and nonresidential construction at least temporarily soften the blows of housing on the economy. Looking ahead, problems with retail sales and weak demand for office space suggest a weakening in nonresidential outlays while budget problems for states indicate a reduction in public outlays. However, fiscal stimulus could boost public outlays but not immediately.

Markets showed little initial reaction to this mornings numbers.

Market Consensus Before Announcement

Construction spending dropped 1.2 percent in October, after no change in September. Weakness in the latest month was led by a sharp 3.5 percent drop in private residential outlays. Private nonresidential spending also declined - by 0.7 percent. In contrast, public outlays rebounded 0.7 percent in the latest month. Given the fall in housing starts in October to a record low 625,000 units, residential outlays will likely lead overall construction spending down in November.

Construction spending Consensus Forecast for November 08: -1.3 percent
Range: -2.5 to -0.2 percent

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