NEW YORK CITY—The outlook for US industrial remains positive this year, although Cushman & Wakefield‘s Kevin Thorpe says the firm anticipates “a slight cooling off” from the “record-setting pace” the sector maintained in 2015. A strong fourth quarter helped drive vacancies to a 15-year low, the GlobeSt.com Thought Leader says in its Q4 report on industrial.
US industrial landlords saw 238.6 million square feet of net absorption this past year, well ahead of the 172.4 million square feet of new construction that came on line during the period. Q4 in particular saw 62.9 million square feet of absorption up 9.1% from Q3. With another 180.5 million square feet in the pipeline, “Demand most likely will exceed new supply, at least for one more year,” says Thorpe, C&W’s chief economist, in a video segment discussing the firm’s US Industrial Snapshot Q4 2015, issued Monday.
As vacancy fell 80 basis points from the year prior to reach 7.2% at year’s end, rents went in the opposite direction. The average industrial rent increased 4.2% year over year, with five markets achieving double-digit gains: San Diego, up 19% Y-O-Y; Pittsburgh, up 17.9%; Los Angeles, 11.4%; Inland Empire, 11.2%; and Las Vegas, 11%. Rents increased Y-O-Y in 60 of the 79 industrial markets that C&W tracks.
C&W’s John Morris expects continued strength in demand for industrial space. “A significant driver of the historic demand witnessed over the past few years has been the ongoing transformation of how we shop and buy,” says Morris, executive managing director of logistics & industrial services for the Americas. “The upward pressure that has been put on commercial real estate continues and will make demand for industrial distribution product in ‘16 similar to the pace of the past year. The biggest unknown is what happens with supply.”
That isn’t to say that the amount of new supply is the only uncertainty facing the sector. Thorpe points to the volatility in the Chinese equity markets, which spilled over into the US, and the drop of nearly 5% in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the year’s first week of trading: “not exactly the start to 2016 we were looking for.”
Added to which, he says, “the manufacturing sector has been up against the ropes as of late, hammered by a slowdown in global growth, low commodity prices and the strong US dollar, which is taking a toll on trade. But then again, the US industrial sector has sailed through these same headwinds for many months now.”
Offsetting the headwinds are positive factors, not least of which are “the consistently healthy US employment reports,” according to C&W’s report. In particular, Q4 represented the year’s strongest quarter for job creation. “Wage growth is also accelerating, which will boost household income and stimulate consumer spending and e-commerce,” the report states.
Based on early indications, especially the weakness in manufacturing, it appears that ‘16 will be “another choppy year,” Thorpe says. “But we anticipate that net absorption will outpace new construction, vacancy will continue to tighten and rents will continue to push upward for the most part.”