Trillion trees legislation introduced
On 12 February US Representative Bruce Westerman, an
Arkansas engineer and forester by profession, introduced
H.R. 5859, the Trillion Trees Act, which aims to bring
about the planting of 1 trillion trees globally by 2050 and
incentivise the use of wood products as carbon
The legislation includes provisions that would leverage US
aid dollars to incentivise reforestation and a afforestation
and establish an International Forest Foundation to
"support international goals to increase global carbon
sequestration through the promotion of healthy forests and
responsible forest management."
The prospects of this proposal becoming law are uncertain.
To move forward it must first be considered by several
committees of jurisdiction in the US House of
Representatives, including the Committees on Agriculture,
Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources, and Ways and Means.
Home permits soar but new builds dip
Construction of new homes slipped 3.6% in January but
permits rose to a nearly 13-year high in a sign that builders
plan to pick up the pace in the spring. New housing starts
slipped as expected last month after a surprising surge at
the end of 2019.
Housing starts fell to an annual pace of 1.57 million, the
US Commerce Department said. Permits to build new
homes climbed 9.2% to an annual clip of 1.55 million,
marking the highest level since March 2007. Both starts
and permits are sharply higher compared to one year ago,
reflecting a rebound in the housing market tied to tumbling
interest rates. For December, housing starts were revised
up to a 1.63 million rate from 1.61 million.
Housing starts decreased for single-family (down 5.9%)
but rose for multifamily structures (up 3%). Regionally
housing starts varied significantly. Housing starts
skyrocketed in the Northeast, rising nearly 32% month
over month, including a 3.1% gain for single-family units.
The West also saw a 1.2% uptick in housing starts.
Meanwhile, housing starts plummeted 26% in the Midwest
and 5.4% in the South.
Canadian January housing starts beat expectations
The pace of Canadian housing starts climbed in January
from a month earlier on gains in Ontario and Quebec
while starts declined in Western Canada, according to
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
January saw a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 213,224
units started, up 8.8% from the 195,892 starts in
December. Of those, rural starts were estimated at a
seasonally adjusted annual rate of 10,817 units. Gains
were concentrated in multifamily buildings such as
apartments and condos that saw a 13.2% increase in starts,
while single-detached home starts slipped 2.1% to 55,100
units. Construction activity gains reflected regional
economic strengths, but analysts noted that weather,
particularly mild winter weather in Quebec, may have
played an outsized role at this time of year.
Canada¡¯s residential sector contracted by 6.0% in 2019,
with single family starts falling by 14.9% and multi-family
starts expanding by 2.4%. There were ground breakings on
several sizable multi-family projects in the second half of
High household debt levels and housing prices in key
markets held back demand, and the fact that mortgage
interest rates have remained high by recent historical
standards throughout 2019 has also contributed to
housing¡¯s unremarkable performance.
Mild winter - Stronger than expected January
An unseasonably mild January helped power the US jobs
market to more gains, with nonfarm payrolls rising
225,000 for the month, well above Wall Street estimates.
The unemployment rate ticked higher to 3.6%, but for the
positive reasons as the labor force participation rate
increased 0.2 percentage points to 63.4%, matching its
highest level since June 2013 according to data released by
the US Department of Labor.
The weather-sensitive construction industry helped lead
the way in job creation, adding 44,000 positions, well
above its 2019 average of 12,000.
Manufacturing, which has been in a months-long slump,
saw a loss of 12,000 positions, owing almost completely to
a drop in manufacturing of motor vehicles and parts.
Cabinet sales slid in December
According to a Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers
Association (KCMA) press release US cabinet
manufacturers reported a decrease in sales of 1.9% in
December comparted to the same month in 2018,
according to the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers
Association (KCMA)¡¯s monthly Trend of Business
Survey. Custom sales saw a decrease of 9.7% and semicustom
decreased 4%. However, stock sales were up 1%.
The monthly numbers tell a similar story. Cabinet sales
overall were down 3.1% compared to November 2019
with custom down 11.7%, semi-custom sales down 8%,
and stock sales up 2.1% compared to the previous month.
Year-to-date cabinet sales are up just 0.6% when
compared to 2018 YTD. Custom sales are down 1.2%,
semi-custom sales are down 4.1%, and stock sales are up
US manufacturing expanded in January - the first rise
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in
January, and the overall economy grew for the 129th
consecutive month, say the nation¡¯s supply executives in
the latest Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management
Report On Business.
The ISM¡¯s index returned to expansion territory for the
first time since July 2019, with many respondents
providing positive sentiment for the first time in several
months. The ISM New Orders Index showed that new
orders grew in January after contracting for five straight
months. Of the 18 manufacturing industries reporting, the
Wood Products and the Furniture and Related Products
industries reported the strongest growth in new orders in
January, after indicating sharp declines in December.
Consumer sentiment resilient despite virus risk
US consumer sentiment figures for February came in
higher than expected despite the recent outbreak of the
coronavirus.The University of Michigan¡¯s consumer
sentiment index came in at 100.9 for February.
Economists polled by Dow Jones expected February
consumer sentiment to come in at 99.5.
Consumers¡¯ assessment of current economic conditions
was virtually unchanged from January while expectations
rose slightly. The coronavirus outbreak appeared to not be
a major concern for US consumers as just 7% of survey
respondents mentioned it ¡°when asked to explain their
economic expectations in early February.¡±
Concern over rising building material costs
The 2020 Houzz US State of the Industry, which provides
an outlook on 2020 and a review of 2019 performance for
residential renovation and design businesses, showed that
companies across all industry sectors have an optimistic
outlook for 2020, but there is also rising concern over
higher costs of doing business.
Following widespread increases to the costs of doing
business in 2019 (55 to 78 percent), product and material
costs are cited as the most significant cost driver by six of
seven industry groups (compared to five of seven groups
in 2018). A large share of companies link the rising costs
to a negative impact of tariffs on businesses in 2019.
Among the other findings: 1) more than half of residential
renovation and design companies predict that 2020 will be
a good or very good year; 2) more than a third of general
contracting, design-build and building and renovation
specialty companies (35% to 38%) and a fifth of
architectural and interior design companies (20% each)
expect to hire in 2020; and 3) Revenue growth notably
slowed in 2019.
While revenue continued to increase in 2019, six out of
seven industry groups experienced a notable deceleration
in average revenue growth (3.1% to 6.1%) compared with
2018 (5.6% to 8.2%). Building and renovation specialty
companies are an exception, reporting average revenue
growth on par with 2018 (6.1% in 2019 versus 6.5% in
For the full ¡®2020 Houzz U.S. State of the Industry¡¯ report go to: