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Latest Annual U.S. and Canadian City Housing Starts (Parts 2)

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

In the previous Economy at a Glance, there was an examination of ‘total’ housing starts in the largest urban centers in the U.S. and Canada.

2015 ‘actuals’ and year-over-year percent changes were laid out in two tables for 12 cities south of the border and six on the northern side.

The figures are being called ‘starts’, although for the U.S. centers they are actually derived from residential building permits.

The city definitions are based on broad boundaries that include downtown cores and nearby suburbs with close commuting ties.

In this current EAAG, the focus will be narrowed to the single-family market.

Nation-wide in the U.S., single-family starts are now accounting for about two-thirds of total starts, with multiples making up the other 33%. (In Canada last year, the proportions were the reverse, 35% for singles and 65% for multiples.)

The share in the U.S. taken by ‘singles’ has dropped dramatically over the past several years. A decade ago, it wasn’t uncommon for singles to be as much as 80% of total starts.

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Canadian Put-in-place Construction Forecasts: Spring 2016 Edition (Part 1)

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

 

Article source: CMDGroup

Based on the latest ‘actuals’ from Statistics Canada, the spring 2016 forecasts, out to 2019, of construction capital spending − also known as put-in-place investment – have just been calculated by CanaData.

Versus the fall of 2015, the year-over-year projections have mostly been scaled back.

Grand total constant dollar (i.e., adjusted for inflation) construction will decline a further 3.1% in 2016 after a drop of 3.4% in 2015. 2017 will see a slight improvement of +1.0%, followed by +3.5% in 2018 and +4.3% in 2019.

In the fall of last year, the comparable percentage changes were: 2015, -2.2%; 2016, +0.5%; 2017, +2.7%; and 2018, +4.1%. There was no 2019 forecast at that time.

In current dollars, 2015’s grand total was $285 billion, or -2.4% compared with $292 billion in 2014.

After a further 1.8% decline in this current year, 2016 will chalk up a volume of slightly less than $280 billion.

Current dollar gains of 2.9% and 5.6% in 2017 and 2018 respectively will finally lift the total dollar value of all Canadian put-in-place construction activity above $300 billion two years from now.

(more…)

Latest Annual U.S. and Canadian City Housing Starts (Parts 1)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

This Economy at a Glance (EAAG) will look at home starts in major U.S. and Canadian cities, according to ‘totals’ (Part 1), plus single-family (Part 2) and multi-family (Part 3) markets.

The accompanying tables rank the dozen American and half-dozen Canadian cities by actual start levels in 2015 and year-over-year percent changes.

For both the U.S. and Canada, the cities are the broad designations (MSAs and CMAs) which include downtown cores plus all suburbs with close live-work commuting ties.

The website versions of these three articles include a wealth of graphs, since it is often true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Nevertheless, here’s commentary on total new home groundbreakings in the 18 major cities.

In the U.S., the monster-sized market for total housing starts in 2015, at 86,400 units, was New York.

Two cities in Texas, Houston (56,900) and Dallas-Fort Worth (56,400), were in second and third places respectively, but way back.

Los Angeles (33,700) and Atlanta (30,000) placed fourth and fifth.
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Canada’s Construction Material Costs Tell Diverse Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Following up on the subject of Canadian construction material costs, this Economy at a Glance concentrates on seven graphs.

Graph 1: Softwood lumber prices in Canada rose rapidly throughout 2012, but over the past three years, they have stayed mainly flat. The U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement (SLA), after being in effect for nine years, was allowed to expire in October of last year.

Participants in Canada wanted to see continuation of the SLA under the same terms as originally negotiated. The U.S. industry has been wishing for a re-calibration of provisions.

Under the SLA, quotas and/or export taxes were to be imposed on Canadian producers when prices fell below a benchmark range.  Individual provinces were allowed to choose their own form of regulation. Additional disputes were argued on several occasions before the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).

Without the SLA, as shown by the long history of contentious wrangling prior to its 2006 implementation, there is considerable potential for legal action that will disrupt North American lumber markets. (more…)

Canada’s Construction Material Costs Tell Diverse Stories (Part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Similar to the U.S., the price advances of many materials and building products going into the construction process in Canada remain restrained.

The +0.3% figure year-over-year (y/y) for total construction − from line 4 of accompanying Table 1 − does, however, incorporate considerable variation at the type-of-structure sub-category level.

At this time, a sizable gain in non-residential building material costs (+3.6% y/y), plus a mid-range increase in residential costs (+2.2% y/y), are being offset by a significant decline in engineering/civil costs (-3.2% y/y).

The divergent performances result primarily from: 1) demand/supply factors driven by activity levels in each of the three main type-of-structure sub-categories; and 2) different weightings of material inputs to build houses versus office buildings versus roads and highways.

The material composition of residential construction has a large forestry component, although domestic lumber prices are also affected by housing starts south of the border.
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Now it’s the Turn of U.S. Construction Material Costs

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

The cost of construction is largely determined by labor and material inputs.

The previous Economy at a Glance studied U.S. year-over-year average hourly wages in construction relative to all private sector jobs and other major industries.

Expanding the analysis somewhat, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in its monthly Employment Situation report, publishes four series on wage rates. Table B3 records average hourly and average weekly earnings for all employees in a range of industries. Table B8 has similar average hourly and weekly earnings information, but only for production and non-supervisory personnel.

For construction, the December 2015 year-over-year results were +2.9% (average hourly) and +4.2% (average weekly) from Table B3 and +2.7% (average hourly) and +3.3% (average weekly) from Table B8.

To summarize, the earnings results for construction ranged from +2.7% to +4.2% annually.

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U.S. Wage Gains: Construction versus other Major Industrial Sectors

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

At the end of 2010, the unemployment rate in the United States was 9.3%.

Five years later, as of December 2015, the national jobless figure has been cut nearly in half, to stand at 5.0%.

There’s a common lament being heard that the tightening in U.S. labor markets has been overstated because a large bloc of potential workers has given up hunting for a job.

Furthermore, so the argument goes, whatever employment improvement has happened isn’t yet leading to better wages and salaries and the economy won’t really build up a head of steam until workers are being paid more, so they can spend more.

This Economy at a Glance will look at the percentage changes of year-over-year average hourly earnings for both production and supervisory workers in the private sector as a whole, and for major industrial sectors. Historical data can be readily downloaded from the web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In the hopes of finding trend lines, the analysis in this EAAG will be limited to the past five years.

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Non-residential Construction Starts Trend Graphs – December 2015

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

Clichés are often true and it is the case that a picture can be worth a thousand words.

Below are six graphs recording 12-month moving averages of CMD ’s non-residential construction starts.

When the value of the current month is higher than for the same month a year ago, the line will turn up; when lower, it will dip.

String a couple of similar positive or negative directional changes together over several months and one has a trend.
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Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. – December 2015

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

The accompanying table records the 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. in December 2015.

There are several reasons for highlighting upcoming large projects. Such jobs have often received a fair amount of media coverage. Therefore, people in the industry are on the lookout for when job-site work actually gets underway. And, as showcase projects, they highlight geographically where major construction projects are proceeding.

Also, total construction activity is comprised of many small and medium-sized projects and a limited number of large developments. But the largest projects, simply by their nature, can dramatically affect total dollar and square footage volumes. In other words, the timing and size of these projects have an exaggerated influence on market forecasts.
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A Baker’s Dozen Mid-January Economic Nuggets

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Article source: CMDGroup

In the early going of 2016, the headline story has been the heightened level of anxiety displayed by stock market investors. Versus 2015’s year-end closings, both the Dow Jones Industrials index and the S&P 500 are -6.0%; NASDAQ is -7.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange, -5.2%.

 

Compared with their most recent highs, the DJI is -10.7%; the S&P 500, -10.0%; NASDAQ, -11.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), -20.5%. The TSX has given its passengers a particularly bumpy ride. It has fallen into ‘bear’ territory (i.e., a decline of 20% or more.)

 

The main widely-cited reason for the sell-offs has been an expectation of weaker growth in China. There are two highly-charged ways in which such a pull-back has unfortunate repercussions for the U.S. and Canadian economies. First, the value of the yuan is being lowered, to make the price of Chinese exports more competitive in world markets.

(more…)

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