The Dodge Momentum Index rose 4.1 percent in December to 125.2 (2000=100) from its November reading of 120.3, essentially reversing the 3.6 percent decline that took place in November. 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.
The December rise in the index was fairly evenly spread between a 4.7 percent increase for institutional projects and a 3.6 percent increase for commercial projects. On a year-over-year basis, the index finished 2015 up 2.4 percent from its reading at the end of 2014. The year-over-year change for the index was dampened by a 6.7 percent decline for commercial projects, as this sector settled back to a more sustainable pace after surging 26.4 percent over the course of 2014. Renewed growth in planning activity for the commercial sector is expected to take place in 2016, supported by strong industry fundamentals such as vacancy rates and employment. Institutional projects at the planning stage jumped 15.8 percent in December compared to the same month a year ago, helped by the passage of recent construction bond measures and the improved fiscal health of state and local governments.
There were 10 projects entering planning in December, each with a value that exceeded $100 million. For the commercial building sector, the leading projects were a $176 million warehouse in Shoemakersville, Pa., and a $160 million office project in Washington, D.C. For the institutional building sector, the leading projects were a $500 million renovation project at Lincoln Center in New York, N.Y., and a $300 million hospital project in St. George, Utah.