Three economists offer their outlook on construction activity and construction spending for the rest of this year, and beyond.

Bernard Markstein, chief economist at Reed Construction Data, Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America and Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects were the featured speakers at the April 17 webinar “2014: Emerging Opportunities for Construction.” They each mapped out what they’ve seen this year and where they think the AEC industry is headed.

Where we are now: Good news

Baker noted that since 2008 the country’s economy has been on a roller coaster, but he says it is starting to become more stable, which makes a “good foundation for construction recovery.” Markstein said there was a fair amount of consensus among economists that the construction sector “appears to be improving somewhat,” but as Simonson observed, that improvement is “uneven.” Simonson cited the strength of the industry in the shale-play areas and the work at various ports that are upgrading in anticipation of a widened Panama Canal, but also noted that construction employment in the country is only up 2.6% from a year ago. (read more…)

A collection of stories from SmartBrief publications and around the web…

“One last thing before I go…”: This retirement speech by James Kidney, a former trial lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, made waves this week for the shots he takes at the sometimes sheepish leadership at the Commission and revolving door ambitions of some staffers. “The revolving door is a very serious problem. I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket. They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the Commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances. You can get back to Wall Street by acting tough, by using the SEC publicity apparatus to promote yourself as tough, and maybe even on a few occasions being tough, if you pick your targets carefully.”

Kidney’s speech includes a few more daggers like the one above. (read more…)

Millennials, those born in the 1980s and 1990s, are a key demographic for wealth managers because of the generation’s size. But they also present a challenge for advisers. Millennials are leery of investing after experiencing the Great Recession and are more focused on reducing debt and increasing savings than their parents. Courting this generation was the topic of “What do Millennial investors want from their financial services firms?” panel moderated by Steven M. Samuels, managing director of the client solutions and segments group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, at SIFMA’s Private Client Conference Thursday in New York City.

Advisers are wrong to assume Millennials are radically different from their parents, said Michael Liersch, director of behavioral finance for Merrill Lynch. He conducted a survey of Millennial investors and found that two-thirds have similar values as their parents. He also discovered in his research that Millennials are not as anchored to technology nor prefer self-directed investing as much as advisers often think they do. (read more…)

A collection of stories from SmartBrief publications and around the web…

Wait … Derivatives are good for the economy?: With all the bad-mouthing out there about derivatives, you might be surprised to learn that the very smart people at the Milken Institute have completed a study that found derivatives are actually a net positive for the economy. “This study charts the benefits to the wider economy from the use of financial derivatives and is a first-of-its-kind examination of derivatives’ quantitative impact on economic growth. It charts the positive effects in the U.S. economy from their use, both in the financial and non-financial sectors.”

Explaining last year’s Nobel winners: Count me among the people who struggled to connect the dots between the work of the three winners of last year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences – Eugene Fama, Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen. This Harvard Business Review blog post nails it. (read more…)

Tom Goodwin, PhD, is Senior Research Director for Russell Indexes focusing on helping clients utilize Russell index tools to better understand capital market dynamics, more accurately measure market and portfolio performance, and gain efficient exposure to investment styles, market capitalizations or asset classes. In this email interview with SmartBrief, Mr. Goodwin discusses style index leadership as the market looks towards Smart Beta.

Question: What’s the history of style indexes and the style box? Which one came first?

Tom Goodwin: The late 80s and early 90s was a time of tremendous growth in both technology and financial reporting. These developments were an evolution, with multiple influences converging across business and financial services. Although they are practically household words in 2014, in the 80s, growth and value were new. Growth and value investing had just become industry buzzwords, and consultants and analysts were beginning to study sources of portfolio return. It is out of this environment that Russell Investments first introduced its methodology for growth and value style indexes in 1987. (read more…)