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Construction Starts Climb 9% in January

The value of new construction starts climbed 9% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $621.0 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, but giant construction projects continue to prop up the gains to some degree. The increase for total construction was the result of an especially strong performance by the nonbuilding construction sector, which benefited from the start of a massive liquefied natural gas terminal facility in Texas.

Meanwhile, nonresidential building lost momentum for the second month in a row and residential building pulled back due to a slower pace for multifamily housing. On an unadjusted basis, total construction starts in January were reported at $43.2 billion, up 18% from the same month a year ago. The January statistics raised the Dodge Index to 131 (2000=100), compared to 120 for December although still short of the most recent high of 143 reached in November. For the full year 2014, the Dodge Index averaged 122.

“During 2014 and now early 2015, the month-to-month pattern for construction starts has often reflected the presence or absence of exceptionally large projects,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “For much of 2014, a substantial share of this work was petrochemical-related, such as a $3 billion Exxon petrochemical plant expansion in Texas. Towards the end of last year, a pickup in liquefied natural gas-related facilities emerged, led by the start of the $3.6 billion Dominion Cove Point Liquefaction Project in Maryland, and January included $6 billion estimated for the start of two segments of a huge liquefied natural gas export facility in Texas.

"The month-to-month variation for overall construction starts is taking place around what is still a rising trend. For nonresidential building, the continued improvement by its commercial and now its institutional project types should enable this sector to register more growth in 2015, notwithstanding a sluggish January. For residential building, the strengthening job market and some easing of lending standards for home mortgages are expected to help single family housing see moderate improvement relative to a flat 2014.”

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