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Here’s Why The Building And Construction Sector Is So Hot Right Now

From Nick Kalivas: Infrastructure spending has been a hot topic since the November elections. Building and construction stocks have been buoyed by the outlook for infrastructure spending — most Democrats in Congress and President Donald Trump agree that additional spending is needed to improve our infrastructure.

The Dynamic Building & Construction Intellidex Index rallied 17.73% between Nov. 8, 2016, and Feb. 21, 2017 — well ahead of the S&P 500 Index, which rose 11.23% during this same period.1 A cyclical recovery in the economy is also creating tailwinds for leading indicators of construction activity.

Here are three reasons I believe building and construction stocks have moved higher:

1. Corporate profits are recovering

Construction spending tends to follow the cycle of corporate profit growth, which looks to have bottomed. The chart below displays the relationship between construction spending and year-over-year growth in corporate profits, as defined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The chart’s data indicate that corporate profit growth tends to lead construction spending by about six quarters. Profit growth can spur corporate investment and signal healthy economic activity, which, in turn, raises government tax revenues and helps support public spending on infrastructure. Increased capital spending can also spur consumer demand for houses and apartments. The correlation between corporate profits and construction spending is not perfect, but is a significant 0.66.1

corporate profit growth tends to lead construction spending

Source: Bloomberg L.P., as of Dec. 31, 2016. Corporate profit data reported by Bureau of Economic Analysis. Data represent three-month averages.

2. Leading indicators of construction activity have turned higher

The Dodge Momentum Index tracks new construction activity in the US and includes residential and nonresidential building activity. The index tends to lead construction spending by about a quarter. The correlation between the index and construction activity is a robust 0.77.1 In recent months, the index has seen some of the most vibrant growth rates since the early 1990s, which should augur well for a pickup in construction spending over the coming months, in my view. The index level has been above 140 for four of the past five months — levels not seen since early 2006.

construction activity

Source: Bloomberg L.P., as of Jan. 31, 2017. Data represent three-month averages.

Another leading indicator of construction activity is what’s known as the Architectural Billings Index. This index is based on a participant survey that asks architectural firms whether billings have increased, decreased or stayed the same in the past month. A value of over 50 indicates an expansion in billings. The survey tends to lead nonresidential construction activity by nine to 12 months.

This Architectural Billings Index has, on average, been above 50 during the first two months of 2017 — suggesting an accelerated outlook for construction activity.1 I believe architectural billings strength in early 2017 will bode well for construction spending in the second half of 2017. The correlation between the index and construction activity is 0.77, making the Architectural Billings Index a worthy predictor of construction spending, in my view.1

This Architectural Billings Index Vs Construction Spending

Source: Bloomberg L.P., as of Jan. 31, 2017. Data represent three-month averages.

3. Existing single-family home inventories are unusually low

In February, the National Association of Realtors reported 1.46 million single-family homes listed for sale nationwide.2 This level of supply is historically low and could contribute to a tight housing market. I believe that, all else being equal, limited home supply should support home prices and the need for new construction. Current inventory levels are nearly the opposite those of the 2006 and 2007 housing boom and ensuing mortgage crisis. In my view, a pickup in homebuilding should be favorable for building materials and construction companies.

Single family home inventories

Source: Bloomberg L.P., as of Dec. 31, 2016

Investors interested in building and materials stocks might wish to consider the PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction Portfolio (PKB).

The PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction Portfolio (NYSE:PKB) was trading at $28.95 per share on Monday afternoon, up $0.44 (+1.54%). Year-to-date, PKB has gained 3.88%, versus a 6.01% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.

PKB currently has an ETF Daily News SMART Grade of A (Strong Buy), and is ranked #15 of 33 ETFs in the Industrials Equities ETFs category.

1 Source: Bloomberg L.P., Feb. 10, 2017
2 Source: National Association of Realtors, February 2017

Important information

Blog header image: WDG Photo/

The American Institute of Architects’ monthly Architectural Billings Index is a leading economic indicator for nonresidential construction activity, with a lead time of approximately nine to 12 months.

The Dodge Momentum Index, a monthly measure of first reporting of planned nonresidential building projects (excluding manufacturing), is a leading indicator for US construction activity and has been shown to lead nonresidential construction spending by 12 months.

The Dynamic Building & Construction Intellidex Index comprises common stocks of 30 US building and construction companies and evaluates companies based on a variety of criteria, including price and earnings momentum, quality, management action and value.

An investment cannot be made into an index.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Correlation is the degree to which two investments have historically moved in relation to each other.

There are risks involved with investing in ETFs, including possible loss of money. Shares are not actively managed and are subject to risks similar to those of stocks, including those regarding short selling and margin maintenance requirements. Ordinary brokerage commissions apply. The fund’s return may not match the return of the underlying index. The fund is subject to certain other risks. Please see the current prospectus for more information regarding the risk associated with an investment in the fund.

Investments focused in a particular industry, such as building and construction, are subject to greater risk, and are more greatly impacted by market volatility, than more diversified investments.

The fund may engage in frequent trading of its portfolio securities in connection with the rebalancing or adjustment of the underlying index.

Stocks of small and mid-sized companies tend to be more vulnerable to adverse developments, may be more volatile, and may be more illiquid or restricted as to resale.

The fund is nondiversified and may experience greater volatility than a more diversified investment.

Shares are not individually redeemable, and owners of the shares may acquire those shares from the fund and tender those shares for redemption to the fund in creation unit aggregations only, typically consisting of 10,000, 50,000, 75,000, 100,000 or 200,000 shares.

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