U.S. Construction Spending Unexpectedly Drops 1.1% In February

U.S. construction spending took a big hit in the month of February, according to figures released Monday by the Commerce Department, with revised January figures also showing a much larger than previously reported decline.

Commerce Department estimates put overall U.S. construction spending at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of $808.9 billion, a 1.1 percent drop from revised January estimates.

The steep monthly drop in February marks the largest drop in overall construction spending since July of 2011.

Furthermore, initial figures which had shown a 0.1 percent drop in construction spending in January were revised to show a 0.8 percent decline.

The precipitous drop in construction spending in February came as a surprise to economists, who had forecast a rebound in the construction market, expecting to see a 0.7 percent increase.

Private construction spending cutbacks contributed to the decline, falling by 0.8 percent overall. While the private residential sector held relatively level, private non-residential spending fell by 1.6 percent.

Overall public sector construction spending also showed a significant decrease, falling by 1.7 percent. The decrease largely reflected a 2.1 percent drop in state and local government spending.

One bright spot for the construction sector came in the form of a 1.9 percent increase in federal construction spending, though that marks only a small fraction of the overall market.

Of the overall public construction spending, educational construction fell by 2.5 percent, while highway construction spending fell by 2.6 percent. (Provided by RTTNews)

UK House Prices Rise First Time In 21 Months: Hometrack

House prices in the United Kingdom rose for the first time in 21 months in March, helped by first time buyers looking to beat the stamp duty holiday that expired on March 24, revealed the latest survey by property tracking website Hometrack published on Monday.

Average asking price for a home in the UK rose 0.2 percent month-on-month in March, after remaining unchanged in the past two months. The price growth was in line with economists' expectations.

The gain, which was the first since June 2010, was led by a 0.5 percent rise in the London region. Only four of the 10 regions tracked by the Hometrack showed increase during the month.

On a yearly basis, house prices were down 1 percent after recording a 1.4 percent drop in the previous month.

The number of new buyers registered continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace of 4.4 percent. In February, the number of new buyers registered surged 18.1 percent.

Contrastingly, data from the Nationwide Building Society showed last week that house prices logged the biggest decline in two years in March after the stamp duty exemption for first-time buyers ended.

As confirmed in the budget, the reintroduction of stamp duty, will pose a further headwind to housing market activity in an already challenging environment.

Research firm GfK NOP reported last week that confidence among British consumers declined in March even before the budget and has returned to the weak levels of the second half of 2011. (Provided by RTTNews)