The AIA's Architectural Billings Index (ABI) stayed in positive territory for the fifth straight month in December with a score of 52.0 (any score above 50 indicates growth). The level of growth edged down slightly from November's mark of 53.2. By region, the Midwest is currently performing the best (55.7), followed by the Northeast (53.1), and the South (51.2). The West remains in negative territory (49.6). “While it’s not an across the board recovery, we are hearing a much more positive outlook in terms of demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. Federal budget cuts, however, could impact the recovery. “Moving into 2013 we are expecting this trend to continue and conditions improve at a slow and steady rate. That said, we remain concerned that continued uncertainty over the outcomes of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling could impact further economic growth,” Baker said. By sector, commercial/industrial led with 53.4, followed by mixed practice at 53.0, institutional at 50.9, and multi-family residential at 50.5. Project inquiries were also in positive territory at 59.4, down just slightly from November's 59.6. The National Association of Home Builders is also reporting growth and forecasting greater gains:
Multifamily production, which has posted a 273 percent gain from its fourth quarter trough of 82,000 units in 2009 to 306,000 units in the final quarter of 2012, is expected to reach what is considered a normal level of production by 2014. The single-family market, which has the farthest to go, was running at 44 percent of normal production in the fourth quarter of 2012. Single-family starts are expected to steadily rise to 52 percent of what is considered a typical market by the fourth quarter of this year and 70 percent of normal by the fourth quarter of 2014. NAHB is forecasting 949,000 total housing starts in 2013, up 21.5 percent from 781,000 units last year.