Anything below 50 can't be considered good news, notes AIA chiefeconomist Kermit Baker, as it indicates that billings revenue isstill declining. However, the March rating was the highest scoresince Aug. 2008, he tells GlobeSt.com, which suggests the declineis beginning to taper off. The ABI reflects the approximate nine-to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and constructionspending. Any score above 50 indicates an increase inbillings..

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Also promising is that some of the regions are moving intopositive territory, namely the Midwest, Baker says. "The Midwesthas been doing very well for the past three to six months, becauseof the upsurge in basic manufacturing, which means that mainlineindustrial cities are benefiting. Also, agricultural commoditiesare doing well." It is unlikely the Midwest will stay in positiveterritory--but that is how recovery happens, Baker says. "Itusually comes in fits and starts with an occasional short-termreversal."

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Baker predicts the index will move past 50 and stay there by themiddle part of this year, basing his projection on the unemploymentrolls, stock market and other macroeconomic indicators.

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Other highlights from the index:

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Midwest regional average (50.5),
Northeast (47),
West (46),
South (44.4),
Multifamily residential (47.3),
Project inquiries index (58.5)

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