Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fed's Beige Book: Economic Activity Expanded mostly at Modest to Moderate pace

by Bill McBride on 4/15/2015 02:49:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland based on information collected on or before April 3, 2015."

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicate that the economy continued to expand across most regions from mid-February through the end of March. Activity in the Richmond, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts grew at a moderate pace, while New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis cited modest growth. Boston reported that business activity continues to expand, while Cleveland cited a slight pace of growth. Atlanta and Kansas City described economic conditions as steady. ...

Demand for manufactured products was mixed during the current reporting period. Weakening activity was attributed in part to the strong dollar, falling oil prices, and the harsh winter weather
And on real estate:
Residential real estate activity improved in the Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts, while remaining steady in all others, except New York, which reported softening conditions. Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Dallas reported a slowdown in construction activity due in part to harsh weather conditions. Low-to-declining levels of inventory were cited by contacts in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco. The Chicago District reported that inventories were near historic lows, particularly for lower-priced homes. Most Districts reported a tight supply of residential real estate in most price points of the market. The Philadelphia and Cleveland Districts reported that mid- to high-priced homes were selling better, while Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas reported that low- to mid-ranged homes were outpacing other categories in sales. Cleveland and Philadelphia reported an absence of first-time homebuyers. Contacts across the system uniformly reported that they were optimistic and many expect a greater than normal upswing in home sales with the coming of spring. The multifamily sector remains strong, with flat to declining vacancy rates reported in multiple Districts. Boston, Cleveland, and San Francisco reported a continued shortage of skilled labor, which was cited as a factor driving up wages.

Commercial real estate activity remained stable to expanding across many Districts. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco all saw strong gains in industrial and office building construction. Demand for commercial properties in the city of Boston continues to be fuelled by foreign institutional investors, many of which are increasing their allocations to real estate. Contacts in Boston, Richmond, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Dallas noted stable to strong multifamily construction. Chicago reported that leasing of industrial buildings, office and retail space all increased. Cleveland mentioned that successful developers have easier access to credit compared to prior years, and Boston reported a slight uptick in speculative activity for commercial construction.
emphasis added