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Construction Spending Sept 2016


September data for construction put-in-place was released today. Year-to-date (YTD) spending is up 4.4% over last year. With September first data release at $1,150 bil SAAR, this seems to establish that we’ve clearly passed a forecast dip in spending that bottomed in April and May. We’ve now had 4 months of spending up from the previous quarter and all up from the same respective months in 2015.


One thing that stands out in the data; so far every month in 2016 construction spending has been revised upwards after the first data release, by an average of +1.2%. Checking back to Jan 2014, all but once spending was revised up after the first number released.

For the 1st eight months of 2016, six of eight times the first comparison of spending showed a decline this month vs previous month. After revisions, the final values show only one month/month comparison was down.

June data which appeared quite low at first has now been revised up by +1.8% (+$21bil saar), with most of the June revision in nonresidential buildings. Most of the July revision was to residential spending. The last three months of construction spending on average have been revised up by +1.5% each.

So, even though the first print shows September down -0.4% from August, historical data would indicate we could expect September to get revised up, perhaps by 1%+ which would result in September finishing higher than June, July or August. Of course, there is always the chance it might get very little increase, and August could still get revised.

Residential spending is up 5.7% ytd and is on track to finish 2016 at $470bil, +6.6% over 2015. Last year, peak spending was in September, then residential spending dropped slightly in Q4 2015. This year I expect 2016 spending to peak in Q4, so we should see ytd performance get better as we approach year end. Cash flow from new starts indicate growth of 9% in 2017 spending.

Total Nonresidential spending is up 3.6% ytd, on track to finish 2016 at $700 bil, up 4.2% over 2015. Almost all the 2016 growth is in nonresidential buildings, not infrastructure.

For the 3rd quarter 2016, compared to the same quarter in 2015, nonresidential spending is up only 1%, but the spending patterns are not apparent unless we separate nonresidential buildings from non-building infrastructure.

For the 3rd quarter 2016, compared to a year ago, nonresidential buildings spending is up 7% and non-building infrastructure is down 6%.

Nonresidential Buildings spending is up 8% ytd through September, led by Office, Lodging and Commercial Retail markets. We should finish 2016 up 8% with a total at $410 billion vs. $379 billion in 2015. Total sector growth for the last three years is 35%. I’m predicting 2017 spending for Nonresidential Buildings will increase 8%, led by Educational and Office spending.

The market share percent of total nonresidential buildings for each market is:

educ=22%, mnfg=19%, comm=18%, offc=17%, hlthcr=10%, lodg=7% and amus/rec=5%.

Office construction spending 2016 growth will be 20%+, now greater than 20%/yr for three consecutive years. At 17% market share, by far it is the largest contributor to nonresidential buildings spending growth in 2016, contributing +3.7% growth.

Lodging is expected to finish 2016 up 26% and has averaged greater than 25%/yr growth for four years. But lodging has only 7% market share, so contributes only +1.8% growth to nonresidential buildings.

Commercial Retail is up 9% with 18% market share and so contributes +1.6% to overall nonresidential buildings growth. For the three-year period 2012 to 2014, commercial averaged 14% growth.

Educational spending, up 5% at 22% of the market, contributes +1.1% to overall nonresidential buildings growth in 2016. Educational spending should finish 2016 up 6%.

Manufacturing buildings present a unique situation in 2016. Manufacturing is down -2.4% ytd.  At 19% market share, that reduces total nonresidential buildings growth by -0.5%. On the surface, manufacturing is lowering total nonresidential buildings growth. Although manufacturing spending is down, it’s still very high, so it’s impact should not be viewed as negative to the overall sector. Spending increased 50%+ in 2014 & 2015. Spending in 2016 will still be the 2nd highest year on record, down only slightly from 2015 but still more than 30% higher than 2014 and more than 50% higher than 2013.

Educational spending is 80% public and 20% private. In public markets educational is only up 4% ytd, but in private markets it’s up 10%. Private spending is driving total educational to $89 billion for 2016, up 6% from 2015. 2016 will be the best year since 2008. 2017 may reach 7% to 8% growth. 

60% of all public work is infrastructure. Education accounts for 25% of public work. Educational is by far the largest building type in public work. All the remaining building types contribute only 2% to 4% each.

We are currently at what I expect could be the 2016 nonres bldgs spending peak, with very little gains across Jul-Aug-Sep-Oct. Nonres bldgs spending may flatten or drop for several months before resuming the climb. This drop may be in large part due to uneven starts from the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, a period when starts were abnormally high, that are now finishing and dropping out of the monthly spending values. Usual normal growth patterns do not fill the void left when abnormally high volume of projects finish.

Nonbuilding Infrastructure spending is down 1% ytd. Cash flows from starts predicted this drop. The biggest negative drivers are Transportation, Sewage/Waste Disposal and Water Supply, each contributing more than 0.5% to the total decline.  Power, the largest infrastructure market at 33% of total, is up 4% ytd so adds +1.33% to growth, tempering some of the declines. Spending in 2016 will reach $292 billion, down less than 1% from 2015. Growth resumes in Q1 2017.Although new starts in 2016 will finish down 10%, starts in 2015 were so high that 2016 will still be a good volume of new starts. Cash flows from all existing starts are predicting 2017 will be a record year for spending on infrastructure, up more than 6% from 2016.

My forecast for total spending in 2016 is $1,170 billion, up 5% from 2015. I expect 8% growth in 2017.


U S Census September Construction Spending Released 11-1-16

See also this post from October Starts Point to Robust 2017 Spending

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