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US construction spending falls for second straight month
[WASHINGTON] US construction spending unexpectedly fell in February and the prior month's outlays were revised to show a steeper decline than previously estimated, which could see economists further mark down their first-quarter growth forecasts.
Construction spending dipped 0.1 per cent to an annual rate of US$967.2 billion, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. January's outlays were revised to show a 1.7 per cent decline instead of the previously reported 1.1 per cent drop.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast construction spending being flat in February.
Economic growth slowed markedly in the first quarter, held back by bad weather, a strong dollar, weaker overseas demand and a now-settled labour dispute at the country's busy West Coast ports.
Estimates for first-quarter gross domestic product range between a 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent annual pace. The economy expanded at a 2.2 per cent rate in the fourth quarter.
Construction spending in February was restrained by a 0.8 per cent drop in public construction outlays.
Spending on federal government projects jumped 9 per cent, but that was offset by a 1.6 per cent plunge in state and local government outlays - the largest portion of the public sector segment.
Spending on private construction projects was up 0.2 per cent as a rise in non-residential outlays made up for a decline in spending on home building.
Private residential construction spending fell 0.2 per cent, likely due to the disruption from cold and snowy weather in the second half of the month.
Spending on single-family construction fell 1.4 per cent, while multi-family home building rose 4.1 per cent.