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AIA reports: Hotels, retail to lead U.S. construction recovery

January 26, 2011 |

NEW YORK, Jan 26 (Reuters) - U.S. nonresidential construction activity will decline this year but recover in 2012, led by hotel and retail sectors, according to a twice-yearly forecast by an architects' trade group.

Overall nonresidential construction spending is expected to fall by 2% this year before rising by 5% in 2012, adjusted for inflation, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) said on Wednesday.

The projected decline marks a deteriorating outlook compared to the prior survey in July 2010, when a 2011 recovery was expected.

That recovery has been pushed back by historically low lending rates for real estate projects, lingering effects of overbuilding and an unfavorable bond market that has limited municipalities' access to funding, the AIA said.

Potential higher borrowing costs and rising energy prices are areas of concern for the architecture and construction industry, said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.

Construction of industrial space is seen falling 11.8% this year, with smaller declines projected for office buildings, hotels and retail space. Spending is seen lower both this year and next on public safety infrastructure, but is expected to be up slightly in areas like healthcare, religious and recreational facilities.

The consensus forecast counts predictions from McGraw Hill Construction, IHS-Global Insight, Moody's, and others.

The AIA's monthly billings index, a leading indicator of activity because it measures work architects have performed, last month reached its best level since November 2007 and has pointed to increasing demand for design services for two consecutive months.

The billings index is considered an indicator of construction activity nine to 12 months in the future, and is tracked by companies that generate sales from the sector.

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