The value of construction put in place reached $934.5 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in November, the Census Bureau announced. It was the sixth straight record, 1.2% above October's upwardly revised total and 7.4% higher than the year-ago month.

For the first 11 months of 2003, construction is 4.1% ahead of the same period of 2002. The gains come only from private residential constuction (+10% year-to-date) and public construction (+3%); private nonresidential construction is off 6%. Nevertheless, the decline in private nonresidential is less than the double-digit decreases of early this year.

In a sign that housing construction may slow in the next few months, the National Assn. of Realtors reported that existing-home sales in November declined 4.6% from October's upwardly revised seasonally adjusted annual rate. Still, the November figure was the fifth highest ever, nearly 7% above November 2002. The median selling price was $170,900, up 5.9% from a year before. The supply of unsold homes rose 2.8% to a still-moderate 5.0 months at current selling rates.

“The manufacturing sector enjoyed its best month since December 1983,” the Institute for Supply Management announced, based on the Institute's PMI index reading of 66.2 for December. “Much of the momentum is in new orders, as the index is the highest reported reading since July 1950….The month-over-month growth from November to December indicates a rapid reovery taking place in the sector, though there are still some businesses lagging and wondering when they will see the improvement that others are experiencing.”