U.S. construction spending rose in March for the first time in six
months, edging up 0.3 percent, according to government data on Monday.

The gain contrasted with analysts' forecasts of a 1.5 percent drop
in spending, but there were signs of weakness in the Commerce
Department's report, which showed spending reached $970 billion at an
annual rate in March.

February spending was revised downward to a 1.0 percent drop from
the 0.9 percent decrease originally reported. March's spending rate was
11.1 percent below that in March 2008.

Private construction slipped 0.1 percent, mostly from a 4.2 percent
decrease in residential building, which makes up more than one-third of
the category. The spending rate of $258 billion was the lowest in
nearly 12 years..

However, public construction, which had tapered off in winter,
increased 1.1 percent in March and 1.3 percent in February. Most of the
boost came from state and local governments where spending rose 1.3
percent in March.

The economic recovery bill passed in February included billions of
dollars for capital projects, and this could be the first indication
some of the funding has reached the U.S. economy.

The $309 billion rate of public construction spending was 2.6 percent higher than in March 2008.