The Dodge Momentum Index moved 6.1% higher in March, rising to 155.0 (2000=100) from the revised February reading of 146.0. The Momentum Index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year.
March’s gain was the result of a 9.6% increase in the commercial component – more than erasing the 5.1% decline it had seen the previous month. The gain in the institutional sector meanwhile was milder, moving 1.6% higher, following an 8.1% gain in February. During the first nine months of 2017, the overall Momentum Index made little progress. However, planning activity shot up in the fourth quarter, with that impetus continuing into the first three months of 2018. In the latest quarter the Momentum Index gained 5.1%. This may be a sign that planners are reacting in a positive fashion to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that President Trump signed at the end of December.
In March, six projects each with a value of $100 million or more entered planning. For the commercial sector the leading projects were a $179 million government office in Ashburn VA and a $155 million warehouse in Riverside CA. The leading institutional projects were a $210 million outpatient medical center in Torrance CA and a $105 million new federal courthouse in Columbia SC.