Electrical Marketing's Leading Indicators

Aug. 24, 2012
Indicators mixed: PMI and Dodge Momentum up a bit; rail shipments and architectural billings slip.

PMI inches up in July. The Purchasing Managers Index increased 0.1% over June, but still remained under the 50% threshold indicating growth. The Institute for Supply Management, Tempe, Ariz., said June and July are the only two months since July 2009 the PMI was under the growth threshold.

Dodge Momentum Index improves in July. McGraw-Hill Construction’s Dodge Momentum Index climbed 8.1% in July after retreating a revised 2.4% in June. The Momentum Index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning. Combined, these projects have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. The Momentum Index for July came in at 98.8 (2000=100), up from June’s revised level of 91.4. The report said further increases in the index would be needed to suggest a real rebound in construction, although this gain is a first step in that direction.

Rail shipments down slightly last week. The Association of American Railroads (AAR), Washington, D.C., reported mixed weekly rail traffic for the week ending Aug. 11, with U.S. railroads originating 289,172 carloads, down 1.2% compared with the same week last year. For the first 32 weeks of 2012, railroads reported cumulative volume of 9,005,952 carloads, down 2.4% from the same point last year.

ABI decline moderates in July. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) pointed to a slower decline in July in design activity at U.S. architecture firms. Published monthly by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., as a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine-to-twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. AIA reported the July ABI score was 48.7 points, up considerably from the mark of 45.9 points in June. This score reflects a decrease in demand for design services (any score below 50 points indicates a decline in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.3 points, up from mark of 54.4 points the previous month. “As long as overall economic conditions continue to show improvement, modest declines should shift over to growth in design activity over the coming months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker.