Homebuilders remain bullish
Despite inflation concerns and ongoing production bottlenecks, home builder confidence edged higher for the fourth consecutive month on strong consumer demand and limited existing inventory. Builder sentiment in the market for newly built single-family homes moved one point higher to 84 points in December, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This ties the highest reading of the year, which was posted in February.
“The most pressing issue for the housing sector remains lack of inventory,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz in that post. “Building has increased, but the industry faces constraints, namely cost/availability of materials, labor and lots. And while 2021 single-family starts are expected to end the year +24% higher than the pre-COVID 2019 level, we expect higher interest rates in 2022 will put a damper on housing affordability.”
AIA’s billings index sags in November but still in growth territory
Architecture firms reported increasing demand for design services for the tenth consecutive month in November, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Although the Architecture Billing Index (ABI) score for November was 51 points, down from 54.3 points from the previous month, it still indicates positive business conditions overall (any score above 50 points indicates billings growth).“The period of elevated billing scores nationally, and across the major regions and construction sectors seems to be winding down for this cycle,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. “Ongoing external challenges like labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, spiking inflation, and prospects for rising interest rates will likely continue to slow the growth in firm billings in the coming months.”
Weekly rail traffic posts solid YOY gains
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported that total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 4, 2021, was 527,406 carloads and intermodal units, down -2.8% compared with the same week last year.