Activity finished the year weak as home building

However, a level below 50 points indicates activity in the sector is winding down.

Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said the construction sector closed out 2016 with a third straight month of contracting conditions.

“Activity, new orders and employment were all down on the previous month and activity in each of the four sub-sectors shrank in December,” he said in a statement.

“The lower level of new orders suggests we cannot expect a sustained turnaround over the first few months of 2017.”

HIA senior economist Shane Garrett said both house and apartment building activity contracted again during the month, however the pace of decline slowed in the apartment sub-sector.

“During 2017, we expect new dwelling starts to decline although the carry over from homes commenced last year means that activity on the ground will remain elevated for much of the year ahead,” Mr Garrett said.

Take the new lung-cancer drugs from Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche Holding, for instance. They are part of a new class of treatments known as immune therapies that harness the body’s own cells to fight tumours and tantalise doctors with the possibility of defeating one of the most common causes of death in the developed world.

The drugs are a game-changer for some patients, helping them live more than twice as long. They’re also expensive: from $US12,500 to $US13,100 a month of therapy. And now they’re getting combined with other medicines. Bristol-Myers estimates a cocktail of its Opdivo drug with another immune product, Yervoy, for melanoma patients costs between $US145,000 and $US256,000 a year. It’s received “very little push-back on the pricing,” says chief commercial officer Murdo Gordon, because patients are living long enough to come back for annual check-ups for the first time.