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July construction spending drop biggest since Jan.

July construction spending drop biggest since Jan (by Greg Robb)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Outlays for U.S. construction projects fell 1.3% in July, the largest decline since January, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The decline came as a surprise to economists surveyed by MarketWatch who were expecting a 0.3% increase. The sharp drop in July was offset by sharp upward revisions to May and June. The monthly construction data are highly volatile. Outlays are up 0.1% compared with a year earlier. Spending on private and public projects fell in July. Spending on private construction fell 0.9% after a 2.0% gain in June. Residential construction fell 1.4% after a 1.1% gain in June. Non-residential construction fell 0.4% after five straight monthly increases. Spending on public projects fell 2.1% in July after rising 0.8% in the previous month. Public construction is at its lowest level since December 2006. Analysts at Nomura Securities said state and local fiscal woes have coupled with diminishing federal stimulus spending to constrain public infrastructure spending.