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Non-Residential Construction Picks Up in October

A leading indicator of U.S. non-residential construction activity rose slightly in October after two months of declines, as pressure from credit problems eased, an architects' group reported Wednesday.

The Architecture Billings Index rose to a level of 53.2 last month from 51.1 in September, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) said.

"For now, this is encouraging news for the construction industry to see an uptick in demand for design services," AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. "The adverse ripple effect from the tightening national credit market seems to have stabilized."

Construction activity typically lags architects' billings by nine to 12 months, according to the AIA. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Billings growth picked up in the U.S. Midwest, slowed in the Northeast and South, and was below 50 in the West -- indicating contraction -- for the second consecutive month, the AIA said. It was the first back-to-back decline in the West in almost three years, the group said.

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