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WASHINGTON, DC-Watching the Architecture Billings Index sway back and forth this year has given the commercial real estate industry a case of collective vertigo. Its latest permutation? It is swinging into positive terrain. Again. Last week the ABI climbed nearly three points, reaching 50.2. It is an important leading economic indicator for the industry because it reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. A positive score, even a barely positive one, reflects an increase in demand for design services. The new projects inquiry index was 57.2, up from mark of 56.3 the previous month.

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, though, is hardly breaking out the champagne. “Until the economy is on firmer ground, there aren’t likely to be strong increases in demand for design services,” he says in a prepared statement. “In the meantime, we can expect to see design activity alternate between modest growth and modest decline.” Unfortunately many of the current signs are like the ABI—lukewarm but trending positive.

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