Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fed's Beige Book: Economic activity "expanded modestly", Residential real estate showed "widespread improvement"

by Bill McBride on 10/10/2012 02:00:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book:

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity generally expanded modestly since the last report.

Consumer spending was generally reported to be flat to up slightly since the last report. A number of Districts characterized retail sales as expanding at a modest pace ...
And on real estate:
Residential real estate showed widespread improvement since the last report. All twelve Districts reported that existing home sales strengthened, in some cases substantially. Selling prices were steady or rising. Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco noted declining or tight inventories, which have put upward pressure on prices. Modest price increases were reported in the New York, Richmond, Chicago, and Kansas City Districts. New York and Richmond reported relatively strong demand at the high and low ends of the market, whereas Philadelphia and Kansas City noted relative strength for mid-range homes; Boston indicated a shift in the mix toward lower or medium priced homes. New home construction and sales were more mixed but still mostly improved: increased construction and/or new home sales were reported in the Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco Districts. Multi-family construction, in particular, was described as robust in the Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas Districts. Residential rental markets continued to be characterized as strong, even in the New York and Atlanta Districts where rents increased somewhat less strongly than in recent months.

Commercial real estate markets were mixed since the last report. Office markets showed signs of softening in the northeastern Districts--Boston, New York and Philadelphia--with New York remarking on substantial new supply coming on the market in early 2013. In contrast, Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Francisco noted some improvement, while most other Districts reported stable or mixed market conditions. Industrial markets showed some strength in the New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta Districts, while conditions were described as sluggish in Richmond and mixed in St. Louis. Atlanta noted weakness in the market for retail space. Commercial construction activity was also mixed: Atlanta, Minneapolis and Kansas City reported some improvement in non-residential construction activity, while Richmond and Dallas noted that activity was sluggish.
"Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and based on information collected on or before September 28, 2012."

More sluggish "modest" growth. And more positive comments on residential real estate ...