On the house (again).
On a seasonally adjusted basis, new construction starts in February increased 4 percent relative to January, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Cos., New York. During the first two months of 2004, total construction contract values have been 2 percent higher than from the same period a year ago.
"The construction industry appears to be hovering at a level close to last year's pace," says Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "Housing remains very healthy, and the upturn for non-residential building in February was a welcome development after a sluggish January."
Murray says that higher steel prices could be putting a crimp in the nonresidential segments. "Over the course of 2004, it's expected that nonresidential building will see a modest strengthening trend. Admittedly, though, this year's sharp increase in steel prices has made the nonresidential upturn less certain, given the impact that higher costs and materials shortages may have on individual construction projects. At this juncture, it appears that the nonresidential upturn will be dampened but not derailed, assuming steel prices settle back by midyear, but the situation clearly bears watching."
Despite the steel price quandary, in February non-residential activity increased 7 percent from January to $148 billion. Office construction jumped 39 percent, boosted by major projects in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
Stores and shopping centers in February increased 21 percent, reflecting the start of an $88 million project in Pennsylvania and a $50 million project in Las Vegas. The educational building category also had a strong month, rising 18 percent with the start of a $100 million university building in Chicago and a $55 million museum renovation in New York City.
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|Title Annotation:||C&D News|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2004|
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