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The Week Ahead: Tracking Residential Construction Spending

The U.S. Census Bureau will release its latest reading on construction spending on Monday, March 2. 

Analysis from the National Association of Homebuilders on the Census Bureau’s latest construction spending data found that residential construction spending rose 1.4% to an adjusted rate of $540.7 billion in December 2019.

The report states that falling mortgage rates have helped lead to the sixth consecutive monthly increase after declines in the first half of 2019. The total value of private residential construction was $514.3 billion in 2019, which is 4.7% lower than in 2018. 

The monthly increase from November to December is due to the growth of single-family construction and remodeling. Single-family spending was at an annual pace of $289.3 billion—up 2.7% in December and 5.2% from December 2018. 

Non-residential construction, however, fell 1.8% in December to $450.5 billion and fell marginally 0.1% annually. 

The rise in residential construction has caused the price of lumber to grow as more new are being built that any time since the Great Recession, according to the Wall Street Journal

The Journal states that lumber futures are up more than one-third from last June’s lows. Futures for March delivery closed at $422.30 per 1,000-board feet on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. 

Shares of the largest timber company, Weyerhaesuer Co., are up about 5.5% over the last year but still a quarter below the highs from June 2018. 

Weyerhaesuer on Friday said it lost $76 million in 2019, compared with a $748 million profit the year before. 

The company attributed its issues last year from the trade dispute with China, which caused the company to reduce log exports from the U.S. Southeast, as well as a flood of cheap competition from European spruce logs salvaged after beetle attacks.

The slowing of price growth for building materials could be seen as positive news, as a report by the NAHB last year that increasing regulatory costs, the shortage of construction workers, tariffs on $10 billion worth of building materials, and concerns over housing finance have impacted housing affordability.


Here's what else is happening in The Week Ahead:

Unemployment Rate (March 6)

Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey (March 5)

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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