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Construction growth continues, but slowing

Keywords: Tags  Interwire, ABI, steel, construcion, American Institute of Architects, Kermit Baker, Samuel Frizell

ATLANTA — A key indicator for nonresidential construction activity was positive for the eighth month in a row in March, signaling a boom for the steel market, even as the rate of growth eased compared with previous months.

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Architectural Billings Index (ABI) was put at 51.9 last month, down from 54.9 in February but still indicating overall growth in construction activity. The ABI reflects an approximate nine- to 12-month lag between architecture billings and construction spending and therefore is viewed as a leading indicator for construction activity and, hence, demand for steel and other construction materials.

Steel wire and wire rod producers at the Wire Association International’s Interwire convention in Atlanta told AMM they had seen improvements in construction markets, but things hadn’t picked up quite as much as they had expected in March.

"We have seen that orders for all construction have been up," said a mill source at the convention, citing particular strength in demand for pre-stressed concrete strand. He added, however, that he guessed some of the increase in business might be due to the fact that his customers had simply run out of inventory.

"I wouldn’t call it substantial; I’d call it ‘noticeable,’" a second mill source said of the apparent construction pickup.

"Business conditions in the construction industry have generally been improving over the last several months," AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. "(But) the recovery has been uneven across the major construction sectors so it’s not a big surprise that there was some easing in the pace of growth in March compared to previous months."

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