Tag Archive for 'construction industry'

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Wells Fargo Reports: Existing Home Sales Decline Modestly in February

Existing homes sales fell 3.7 percent in February to a 5.48-million unit pace. Home sales are now more in line with pending sales, which had fallen in recent months. Inventories rose slightly but remain unusually lean.

Home Sales Are Still Off to a Strong Start

Existing home sales slipped 3.7 percent in February but are still off to a strong start to the year. The decline was somewhat expected following January’s surprisingly strong 3.3 percent increase but February’s report did come in slightly below the consensus estimate and our own lower call. Sales have averaged a 5.56-million unit pace over the past three months and remain above their year ago levels nationally and at all four regional levels.

We were expecting sales to come in below consensus, largely due to recent declines in pending home sales, which are contracts for the purchase of an existing home. Pending sales do a reasonably good job of anticipating the future direction of existing home sales but tend to overstate the magnitude of swings, particularly when you get a big down month like we did in January, when pending home sales tumbled 2.8 percent. Most of the drop in pending sales was in the West, which tumbled 9.8 percent, and the Midwest, which fell 5.0 percent. Both areas saw the return of more typical winter weather following milder weather in January. We do not expect existing home sales to precisely follow pending sales lower, just as they did not precisely follow them higher when pending sales spiked early last year.

Lean Inventories Make This a Sellers’ Market

February’s dip in home sales allowed inventories to rebound somewhat. For-sale inventories rose 4.2 percent to 1.75 million homes. But even with the gain, the number of homes available for sale remains 6.4 percent lower than it was one year ago, continuing a string of year-to-year drops that stretches back 21 months. Relative to sales, there is now a 3.8-month supply of homes available for sale. A balanced market would have around a 5.5-month supply.

With overall inventories as low as they are, sellers are selling their homes very quickly. The typical home sold in February was on the market for just 45 days, which compares to 59 days one year ago. Moreover, 42 percent of the homes sold in February were on the market for one month or less. The hottest markets remain mostly in the West, including San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, where strong job growth in the tech sector and has kept inventories incredibly lean.

By region, sales tumbled 13.8 percent in Northeast, fell 7.0 percent in the Midwest and declined 3.1 percent in the West. The South, which is by far the largest region for existing home sales, saw sales rise 1.3 percent, likely reflecting strong demand in Florida, Texas, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The median price of an existing home rose 7.7 percent over the past year. Prices are up the most in the West and South, where they are 9.6 percent higher than one year ago. By contrast, the median price of a home is up 6.1 percent over the past year in the Midwest and 4.1 percent in the Northeast.

Source: National Association of Realtors and Wells Fargo Securities

ABC Report: Safety Best Practices Can Make Construction Companies 770% Safer

 Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) recently released its 2017 Safety Performance Report to further the construction industry’s understanding of how to make jobsites safer through its Safety Performance Evaluation Process (STEP). Packed with infographics and practical takeaways, the report documents the dramatic impact of using proactive safety practices to reduce recordable incidents by up to 87 percent, making the best-performing companies 770 percent safer than the industry average.

“ABC’s third annual report on the use of leading indicators, such as substance abuse programs and new hire safety orientations, confirms that high-performing ABC members have safer construction jobsites,” said ABC President and CEO Michael Bellaman. “This is one of the few studies of commercial and industrial construction firms doing real work on real projects, and it shows that implementing best practices can produce world-class construction safety programs.”

The Safety Performance Report is based on data gathered from ABC member companies recording more than one billion hours of work in construction, heavy construction, civil engineering and specialty trades. It tracked 35 data points from ABC’s 2016 STEP participants to determine the correlation between implementing leading indicator use and lagging indicator performance, which is measured by the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and Days Away and Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate. Each of the data points collected was sorted using statistically valid methodology developed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Survey, and combined to produce analyses of STEP participant performance against BLS industry average incidence rates.

Among the findings:

Companies that attained the highest level of STEP participation—Diamond—reduced their TRIR by 87 percent compared to the BLS industry average of 3.5 injuries/fatalities per 100 full-time employees.
STEP participants with a robust substance abuse program/policy in place dramatically outperformed those with a weaker program, reducing their TRIR and DART rates by 36 percent.
Conducting a new hire safety orientation lasting more than 200 minutes reduced incident rates by 94 percent compared to an orientation of 30 minutes.
Companies that held site-specific safety orientations reduced their TRIR by 45 percent.
Holding daily toolbox talks (brief, single-topic training sessions conducted on the jobsite for all employees) reduced TRIR by 64 percent, versus holding them monthly.
Firms that scored high for C-suite leadership engagement and employee participation reduced their TRIR by 54 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
STEP was founded in 1989 by the ABC National Environment, Health & Safety Committee as a safety benchmarking and improvement tool. Participating ABC member firms measure their safety processes and policies on 20 key components through a detailed questionnaire with the goal of implementing or enhancing safety programs that reduce jobsite incidence rates. Applying world-class processes dramatically improves safety performance among participants regardless of company size or type of work.

The full report is available on ABC’s website.

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Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents nearly 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.

ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator Fell to End 2016

Construction backlog fell by 4 percent during the last quarter of 2016, according to the latest Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Contractors in each segment surveyed—commercial/institutional, infrastructure and heavy industrial—all saw lower backlog during the fourth quarter, with firms in the heavy industrial segment experiencing the largest drop, down 16.8 percent to an average backlog of 5.5 months.

Overall, backlog—the amount of work under contract but yet to be performed—fell to 8.3 months duringthe fourth quarter. CBI rose a modest 0.4 months or 4.5 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Source: Associated Builders and Contractors

“Many factors contributed to the dip in contractors’ backlog, but none is more important than the lack of public construction spending momentum,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Indeed, backlog among firms specializing in infrastructure has declined from 12.2 months during the final three months of 2015 to 10.6 months one year later.

“CBI is intended to be a predictive tool and has accurately predicted declining public spending for several quarters,” said Basu. “Recent construction spending data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau confirm these declines. For instance, between January 2016 and January 2017, construction spending in the nation’s highway and street segment declined by more than 10 percent. In the water supply, public safety and transportation components, the level of construction spending declined by closer to 11 percent. In the sewage and waste disposal category, construction spending declined by a whopping 28 percent.

“A still fragile global economy, strong U.S. dollar, and stubbornly low energy prices have helped to translate into declining heavy industrial backlog,” said Basu. “The only category experiencing construction spending stability is the commercial segment. Over the past year, construction spending in office, lodging and relative categories has surged. During that same period, the CBI reading in the commercial/institutional category has remained stable.”

See charts and graphs

Regional Highlights

Backlog declined in all major regions of the nation during 2016’s final quarter with the exception of the Northeast. A surge in financial activity and foreign investment in commercial real estate helped buoy construction in the New York metropolitan area, according to available CBI survey data. Boston continues to be propelled by its large and expanding technology sector. Stable economies in both Washington and Baltimore have also helped to drive Northeast CBI higher.
Middle States backlog sits at roughly 7.8 months. Though this represents a decline on a quarterly basis, backlog is still more than a month higher than it was a year ago. Stable-to-rising industrial production in a number of Middle States communities has helped.
Backlog in the West declined during the fourth quarter and is now at its lowest level since the first quarter of 2015. The region’s backlog has now fallen in four of the previous five quarters, largely due to dynamics among large construction firms. The technology boom in many communities, including in Silicon Valley and Seattle, has led to massive construction projects in recent years. It was expected that this level of technology-generated construction would slow a bit, and this appears to be what has transpired.
Backlog in the South fell during 2016’s final quarter, ending a prolonged period of growth that began during the third quarter of 2015. Despite this setback, backlog in the southern region remains elevated due to the volume of construction in several of the region’s most economically dynamic major metropolitan areas, including Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.

Highlights by Industry

Foreign and domestic equity capital, searching for a satisfactory combination of safety and yield, has continued to flow into U.S. commercial real estate.
Average backlog in the heavy industrial category fell to 5.5 months during the fourth quarter, a decrease of more than 1 month. Backlog in the segment has reverted to early-2014 levels, almost 2 months later than its peak in the second quarter of 2016.
Backlog in the infrastructure category contracted in the fourth quarter but remains well above its post-recession trough. Despite falling 13.2 percent from the same time last year, backlog in the sector is up 49.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013.
Commercial/institutional backlog fell to end 2016, but the sector remains remarkably stable. The category’s backlog reading has hovered between 8 months and 8.3 months for the past two years.

Company Size Trends

Backlog for firms with annual revenues above $100 million fell dramatically to end 2016 with contractors shedding nearly three months of backlog on average, dropping from 13.7 months to 10.8 months. The CBI reading for this group is now at its lowest level since the second quarter of 2015.
Backlog for the smallest firms surveyed—those with annual revenues less than $30 million—remains stable. Many of these companies are subcontractors that continue to toil on privately-financed, commercial construction projects.
Firms with annual revenues between $30 million and $50 million per annum were in the only category that collectively reported rising backlog. These firms are often advantageously positioned to take on large components of commercial or institutional work, and backlog for this group now stands at a still-healthy 8.3 months.
Backlog among firms with between $50 million and $100 million in annual revenue fell fractionally during the final quarter, not enough for statistical significance. Though backlog has declined relative to the peak achieved in mid-2013, in part due to the loss of public infrastructure spending momentum, average backlog remains above 9 months.

See Charts and Graphs

 

ABC Says: Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips to Start 2017

Nonresidential construction spending contracted during January, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Nonresidential spending fell 1.9 percent from December to $698.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. This represents the first month total nonresidential construction spending dipped below $700 billion since July 2016.
Despite the monthly setback, year-over-year progress remains intact, with nonresidential spending increasing 1.5 percent since January 2016. However, in real terms, that represents virtually nonexistent growth. Private nonresidential spending remained unchanged for the month, while public sector spending plunged 4.7 percent. The greatest loss in spending volume occurred in the public safety, water supply and conservation and development segments.
“The significant loss in public construction spending momentum is hardly novel,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For several years, public funding for construction activity has been flat and erratic. Public budgets remain constrained by underfunded pensions, surging Medicaid expenditures, and other non-infrastructure-related needs.
“The new president’s speech on Tuesday night discussed the need for additional infrastructure investment,” said Basu. “If the president is able to implement his public-private partnership plan, public construction spending is set to soar. However, there are many obstacles to his plan coming to fruition.

“Private construction spending was also soft in January, but the outlook remains upbeat,” said Basu. “Corporate confidence is high, architects became much busier during the period immediately following the presidential election, and capital from banks and other sources should be broadly available to developers during the year ahead.”

January 2017 Nonresidential Construction Spending

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

* In testimony at last week’s US House Energy Subcommittee hearing one witness commented that “bringing on more baseload (electric) generation in today’s marketplace is akin to bringing sand to the beach.” Energy policy makers, particularly in areas making large and relatively fast moves towards renewables – obviously, California, but also neighboring states soon to become California’s energy colonies – are facing new and different challenges than supply. Transmission, inter-connectivity, time-of-day and related costs and lengthy implementation schedules are moving to the policy forefront. Oh, and who’s in charge of all of that…

* With electricity, in the very near future, actually, probably right now, system efficiency and control will be key to integrating renewable power in vast, expansive decentralized grids. Importantly, one now gets the sense of endless power – reachable, if it can be harnessed and controlled. Think of a team of Belgian draft horses but with harness and equipment for a pony – not much work despite plenty of power. However it’s not just power: think of a team of strong ponies with the harness and equipment for drafts – not much work, despite what very likely could be all of the power you need for the task at hand. New energy software is critical and FERC has scheduled another in its series of conferences focusing on software to increase market and planning efficiency, think load forecasting that reads the future with instantaneous decisions. All details aren’t set but conference is scheduled for June. Advise if you want updates as this draws closer.

* The Conference of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers is evaluating how to rejuvenate the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Maritime Transportation System (MTS). This effort will continue through the end of the year, with a likely draft study for review early in the summer. The Conference wants to show that targeted federal investments and policy changes will boost MTS competitiveness. Goals are to double maritime trade, shrink environmental impacts of the region’s transportation network (including roads, trains) and support the region’s industrial core. Some policy ideas are emerging now. Just as important, many Great Lakes states, e.g., Ohio, are evaluating how to best use their inland waterways. Navigable rivers and the Great Lakes: surely two complementary assets!

Tom Ewing