Australia construction acitvity strongest in 2 yrs

SYDNEY: Australia's construction industry rebounded strongly in January, a survey showed on Friday Feb 5, posting its best performance in two years as home building boomed and the commercial and engineering sectors enjoyed healthy growth.

The survey of 200 firms by Australia Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association was upbeat across the board with even the long-suffering apartment sector recovering and employment making the biggest increase since January 2008.

The survey's main measure of overall construction conditions jumped 8.4 points to 57.7 in January, well above the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction.

"The construction industry has started 2010 on a positive note with a solid rise in new business driving growth in activity and a lift in employment," said AIG associate director of public policy Peter Burn.

"The improved conditions in January coincided with the reporting of increased tendering opportunities, new contract wins and a further uptake of work stemming from the federal government's infrastructure stimulus programmes."

The survey's measure of house building surged 10.3 points to a lofty 63.7, its seventh straight month of expansion. That will help cement expectations for a boom in home building this year which will offer powerful support to economic growth.

The index of apartment building climbed 16.4 points to 59.1, the best reading since early 2008 and a sign credit for big projects might finally be flowing after the global financial crisis. Engineering activity rose 15.2 points to 57.0, thanks to new projects in mining and energy, while the index for commercial building rose 10.0 points to 59.9 helped by fiscal stimulus spending on social infrastructure like schools.

New orders lifted 7.4 points to 53.5, led by a marked upturn in the apartment sector after almost two years of contraction.

The survey's measure of employment rose 6.5 points to 59.1 as firms took on more workers to meet increased orders. That could bode well for another rise in the official employment report for January due next week.

Wages growth also picked up to a reading of 63.5, and firms reported increases in both input and selling prices.- Reuters

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