Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Architecture Billings Index shows contraction in March

by Bill McBride on 4/21/2010 08:57:00 AM

Note: This index is a leading indicator for Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.

The WSJ reports that the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index increased to 46.1 in March from 44.8 in February. Any reading below 50 indicates contraction.

"This is certainly an encouraging sign that we could be moving closer to a recovery phase, even though we continue to hear about mixed conditions across the country," said Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects
The ABI press release is not online yet.

AIA Architecture Billing Index Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index has remained below 50, indicating falling demand, since January 2008.

The second graph compares the Architecture Billings Index with the year-over-year change in non-residential structure investment.

AIA Architecture Billing Index Historically, according to the AIA, there is an "approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending" on non-residential construction. This suggests further significant declines in CRE investment through all of 2010, and probably longer.

Note: Nonresidential construction includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.

And more on CRE: Fitch: U.S. CMBS Loan Defaults to Exceed 11% by End of 2010
Loan defaults will continue to escalate for U.S. CMBS, with an additional 4.4% likely in 2010 and the overall rate to exceed 11% among Fitch-rated deals by the end of the year, according to Fitch Ratings.

... For the first time in five years, multifamily was not the property type with the most new defaults, with that distinction going to retail (32.3%) last year. Following retail was multifamily (22.1%), office (20.2%) and hotel (17.8%). Fitch projects sizeable default increases for each property type, with rates likely to increase at accelerated rates for office and hotel loans.

'Office defaults spiked in the fourth quarter last year, with further rental and net operating income declines likely through next year before a rebound takes place,' said Senior Director Richard Carlson.

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