Is the U.S. economy really on the rebound? Economists don't agree and they're not likely to get help from the latest movement of the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
After a 5-point dip in June, the ABI bounced back 6 points in July to hit 43.1 from June's 37.7 mark. At the same time, the new projects inquiry score fell from 53.8 to 50 in July. Anything under 50 represents a decline; over 50 an increase.
The July mark was nearly 10 full points above the Index's historic low of 33.3 in January. Since then, the Index has steered an erratic course, rising in March, holding steady through May, then dipping in June only to rebound with gains in July.
"There has been too much contraction in recent months to get overly optimistic about business conditions returning to levels they were at two months ago," said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, who cited continuing tight credit as an obstacle the market has yet to overcome.
The ABI is considered a leading indicator of construction activity, with a 9 to 12 month lag between architecture billings and construction spending.
Read the AIA news release.