Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fed's Beige Book: Economic activity expanded at "modest or moderate" pace

by Bill McBride on 1/16/2013 02:00:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book:

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity has expanded since the previous Beige Book report, with all twelve Districts characterizing the pace of growth as either modest or moderate. ... Overall, holiday sales were reported as being modestly higher than in 2011, though sales were below expectations for contacts in many of the Districts.

Since the previous Beige Book, consumer spending increased to some degree in all twelve Districts. Across the nation, holiday sales grew modestly compared with last year but came in below expectations in the New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco Districts. ... Citing concerns that consumers will spend cautiously due to ongoing fiscal uncertainty, retail contacts and auto dealers reported a slightly dimmer, though positive, outlook for future sales.
And on real estate:
Existing residential real estate activity expanded in all Districts that reported; growth rates were described as moderate or strong in nine Districts. Contacts in the Boston District attributed their strong sales growth to low interest rates, affordable prices, and rising rents. All Districts reporting on price levels saw increases; New York and Chicago reported only very minor increases. The five Districts that reported on housing inventories all reported falling levels. New residential construction (including repairs) expanded in all but one District of those Districts that reported. Contacts in the Kansas City District reported that increased lumber and drywall costs limited construction, causing a slight decline this period. Hurricane Sandy disrupted construction activity initially in New York, but this has since led to increased work for subcontractors on repairs and reconstruction.

Though a little weaker than residential real estate, reports on sales and leasing of nonresidential real estate are still mostly positive--described as modest on average. The Boston District reported a drop in leasing beyond normal seasonal trends; contacts cited fiscal cliff uncertainty as a factor. Minneapolis and Kansas City reported increased demand and tightening commercial real estate markets. Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Dallas all reported more modest increases in nonresidential real estate activity. Nonresidential construction is weaker than residential, with only slight to modest growth.
This suggests sluggish growth overall, with "moderate or strong" growth for real estate.

Last 10 Posts