Wednesday, March 06, 2013

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

by Bill McBride on 3/06/2013 02:00:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and based on information collected on or before February 22, 2013"

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity generally expanded at a modest to moderate pace since the previous Beige Book. ...

Most Districts reported expansion in consumer spending, although retail sales slowed in several Districts. Automobile sales were strong or solid most Districts, and tourism strengthened in a number of Districts. The demand for services was generally positive across Districts, most notably for technology and logistics firms. ... Many Districts noted rising gasoline prices and fiscal policy as having a negative effect on consumer sales, and contacts in the Boston, New York, and Minneapolis Districts said severe weather depressed sales somewhat.
And on real estate:
Residential real estate activity continued to strengthen in most Districts, although the pace of growth varied. Contacts in the Boston, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts noted strong growth in home sales, while New York and Chicago reported slight improvements. A realtor in the Richmond District indicated that low interest rates continued to motivate home buyers, and potential buyers in the Philadelphia District expressed greater confidence, including entry-level purchasers who had been increasingly opting to rent since mid-summer. Contacts in the Cleveland and Atlanta Districts said sales were higher than a year ago. Home construction increased in most Districts, with the exception of the Kansas City District where it was reported as unchanged. Several Districts noted ongoing strength in multifamily construction, although contacts in the Atlanta and Cleveland Districts mentioned continued financing difficulties for builders. Home prices edged higher in the majority of Districts, with lower inventories generally cited as the primary cause. Richmond and Atlanta Realtors observed multiple offers on many homes. Philadelphia real estate contacts continued to report low-end home prices as firm or rising slightly, while high-end home prices were still falling. Inventories declined in nearly all Districts, with Realtors in several Districts concerned about the impact on future sales volume.

Overall commercial real estate conditions were mixed or slightly improved in most Districts.
This suggests sluggish growth overall, with some negative impact from "fiscal policy" ... and with mostly "strong" growth for residential real estate.

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