1. The advance estimate of first quarter 2013 real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) showed a 2.5% increase at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), up from fourth quarter’s 0.4% increase. This estimate is based on incomplete data, and thus subject to revision next month when more data will be available
  3. Investment in nonresidential structures slipped 0.3%, following fourth quarter’s 16.7% jump
  5. Consumer spending was one of the major components driving real GDP higher, increasing 3.2%,  following a rise of 1.8% in the previous quarter—its best performance since fourth quarter 2010
  7. Government was the major drag on GDP, down 4.1%. Federal government spending fell 8.4%, while state and local government spending was down 1.2%. Most of the drop in federal spending was related to defense,  which decreased 11.5%, while non-defense spending declined 2.0%
  9. Sequestration is beginning to weigh on the economy. Furloughs of air controllers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were quickly reversed by Congress, with legislation allowing the FAA to meet its budget cuts from sequestration by taking the money from its capital budget. The result will be to delay or scuttle some planned projects
  11. Total commercial construction spending fell 1.7% in March to $856.7 billion (SAAR). Year-to-date not seasonally adjusted (NSA) spending increased 4.7% compared to the same period in 2012. The March spending number includes the following:
    • Nonresidential building construction spending decreased 2.2% to $290.7 billion, and year-to-date was down 0.8% from 2012
    • Heavy engineering (non-building) construction spending dropped 3.7% to $264.4 billion, and year-to-date was flat at $54.6 billion from a year ago
    • New residential construction spending increased 1.7% to $195.6 billion, and year-to-date was up 36.1% from a year ago
  12. Housing, while still generally improving, took a pause in some areas:
    • Single-family housing starts dropped 4.8% to 619,000 (SAAR) in March after soaring 5.5% the month before.  The 3-month moving average for single-family housing starts was essentially flat at 628,000 in March, its highest level since July 2008. Single-family building permits inched up 0.3% to 600,000 in March, its highest level since June 2008. The 3-month moving average for single-family permits increased 1.5% to 594,000—its highest level since July 2008
    • A note of warning is raised by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The index  fell for the third month in a row, down 2 points in April to 42—reflecting builders’  frustration over rising building materials costs and difficulty in obtaining financing to meet rising demand
    • New home sales advanced 1.5% to 417,000 (SAAR) in March after plunging 7.6% in February. The 3-month moving average of new home sales rose for the fifth month in a row, up 2.2% to 424,000—its highest level since September 2008
    • House prices generally have been rising for a year. The seasonally adjusted (SA) 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller® Home Price index increased 1.2% in February, its thirteenth monthly increase in a row. On a year-over-year NSA basis, the 20-city index was up 9.3%. For the second month in a row, home prices were up in all 20 cities on a monthly SA basis and on a NSA year-over-year basis
    • The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Purchase-Only Home Price Index rose 0.7% (SA) in February, its thirteenth monthly increase in a row. On a year-over-year NSA basis, the index was up 7.0%
    • Multifamily housing starts rocketed 31.1% higher to 417,000 (SAAR) in March after surging 11.2% in February. The 3-month moving average, which smooths out these erratic monthly movements, increased 5.4% to 340,000 from February—its highest level since June 2008
    • The March 3-month moving average of multifamily building permits fell 2.9% to 323,000 from 332,000 in February. The drop in multifamily permits may be an indication that developers and investors are taking at least a temporary step back from new multifamily projects to allow the market to absorb the recent influx of new rental space
    • The Census Bureau reported that the homeownership rate continues to decline, falling to 65.2% (SA) in the first quarter from 65.3% in the previous quarter. (The NSA Q1 2013 homeownership rate was 65.0%, down from 65.4% for Q1 2012.) Meanwhile, the Q1 2013 rental vacancy rate fell to 8.6%  (NSA) from 8.8% in Q1 2012. Despite the lower rental vacancy rate, current dollar NSA median rental asking prices were down 0.8% from Q4 2012 and down 0.4% from Q1 2012
  13. The March AIA Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped 3 points to 51.9 from 54.9 in February. Although a decline from the previous month, the March ABI was still above 50, which indicates increased billings—a positive for future commercial construction. March marked the eighth consecutive month with an index reading above 50

  14. The March Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods was down 0.6% (SA) after increasing 0.7% in February. On a year-over-year NSA basis, the March PPI was up 1.1%

  15. A price index for inputs used in nonresidential construction, excluding capital equipment, declined 0.2% (NSA) in March after jumping 1.3% in February. The index was a modest 0.2% (NSA) higher than in March 2012, while inputs for residential construction were up 1.7%

  16. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) edged down 0.2% (SA) in March following a 0.7% increase in February. The NSA CPI was up 1.5% from March 2012. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, showed a bare increase of 0.1% (SA) in March following a 0.2% advance in February and was up 1.9% (NSA) from March 2012