Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Fed's Beige Book: Economic Activity Expanded "across most regions", Oil "declined"

by Bill McBride on 3/04/2015 02:00:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and based on information collected on or before February 23, 2015. "

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicate that economic activity continued to expand across most regions and sectors from early January through mid-February. Six Districts noted that the local economy expanded at a moderate pace since the prior reporting period. Activity rose modestly in Philadelphia and Cleveland, while it increased slightly in Kansas City. Dallas noted a similar pace of growth as in the previous period, while Richmond reported that activity slowed from the modest pace seen in the prior period. Boston noted that business contacts were fairly upbeat this period, notwithstanding the severe weather....

Oil and natural gas drilling declined in the Cleveland, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts. In contrast, the Richmond District reported that natural gas production was unchanged. The number of drilling rigs for oil and natural gas declined sharply in the Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Kansas City Districts. Oil and gas producers in the Cleveland, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts anticipate cuts in capital expenditures during 2015. Coal production was unchanged in both the Cleveland and Richmond Districts, while it increased modestly in the St. Louis District. Both the Cleveland and Richmond Districts reported lower coal prices.
And on real estate:
Residential real estate conditions were mixed across the Districts. Home sales and prices increased in most Districts; construction activity was mixed, with some Districts reporting disruptions due to severe weather. Residential sales increased in Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, St. Louis, Dallas, and San Francisco. Sales fell in Cleveland and Kansas City. Contacts in New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland partially attributed lower construction to inclement weather conditions. Contacts in Boston noted low levels of inventory due, in part, to inclement weather. Reports noted that low levels of inventory and lack of desirable lots continue to slow the market: Contacts in Boston, Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Francisco cited a lack of available inventory, while contacts in Cleveland and Richmond noted a lack of available lots. Single-family building permits increased in St. Louis and San Francisco. Contacts in Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Minneapolis reported flat to declining real estate construction.

Commercial real estate market conditions were stable or improving in most Districts. Commercial vacancy rates declined in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. In Dallas, contacts reported that commercial real estate had steadied or slowed since the previous report. The apartment market remained strong in most Districts. Apartment rental rates rose in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Contacts in Cleveland noted an increased demand for multifamily housing. Contacts in Dallas noted that apartment demand remains strong. Commercial construction increased in most Districts. Contacts in New York, Richmond, Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco noted stable to strong multifamily construction. Contacts in Chicago reported moderate growth in commercial real estate, driven mainly by industrial buildings. In Boston, contacts noted that speculative construction remains limited due to high construction costs.
emphasis added