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Electrical Marketing’s Leading Economic Indicators

Jan. 26, 2018
Building permits, architect billings, purchasing manager sentiment and general leading indicators all look strong to start 2018.

Building permits up year-over-year in December. Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,302,000, 0.1% below the revised November rate of 1,303,000, but +2.8% above the December 2016 rate of 1,266,000.

Single-family authorizations in December were at a rate of 881,000, +1.8% above the revised November figure of 865,000. An estimated 1,263,400 housing units were authorized by building permits in 2017, +4.7% above the 2016 figure of 1,206,600.

AIA’s Billings Index ends finishes 2017 strong. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) concluded the year in positive terrain, with the December reading capping off three straight months of growth in design billings. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, DC, reported the December ABI score was 52.9 points, down from a score of 55 points in the previous month. This score still reflects an increase in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

“Overall, 2017 turned out to be a strong year for architecture firms.  All but two months saw ABI scores in positive territory,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. “Additionally, the overall strength of the fourth quarter lays a good foundation for healthy growth in construction activity in 2018.”

PMI looks strong again in December. ISM’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for December registered 59.7%, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the November reading of 58.2%. The PMI is a monthly survey of purchasing managers published monthly by the Institute for Supply Management, Tempe, AZ.  Any reading over 50% means purchasing managers are feeling bullish about their orders in the coming months.

Leading indicators point toward solid first half of 2018. The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.4% in November to 130.9 (2010 = 100), following a 1.2% increase in October, and a 0.1% increase in September. “The U.S. LEI rose again in November, suggesting that solid economic growth will continue into the first half of 2018,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at The Conference Board.