Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fed's Beige Book: "Most Districts indicated a modest or moderate pace of expansion"

by Bill McBride on 10/19/2016 02:15:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas based on information collected on or before October 7, 2016. "

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest national economic activity continued to expand during the reporting period from late August to early October. Most Districts indicated a modest or moderate pace of expansion; however, the New York District reported no change in overall activity. Compared with the previous report, the pace of growth improved in the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts. Outlooks were mostly positive, with growth expected to continue at a slight to moderate pace in several Districts.

Labor market conditions remained tight, with modest employment and wage growth noted over the reporting period. Most Districts characterized input costs and/or output prices as fairly flat, but prices increased slightly on net.
emphasis added
And on real estate:
Residential real estate activity expanded in most Districts since the prior report, and contacts in a few Districts expressed optimism about future growth. Homes sales fell markedly in the Kansas City District, while slight to moderate gains were reported by most of the other Districts. Demand for lower-priced homes was solid in Districts that commented on it, while sales of higher-priced homes slowed in the New York, Chicago, and Dallas Districts, and in Alaska according to San Francisco's report. Home inventories were generally reported to be low or declining and were restraining sales growth according to the Boston, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis Districts. Home prices continued to rise at a modest pace across much of the country, which contacts in some Districts attributed to tight inventories and labor constraints. Growth in residential construction was generally flat to up during the reporting period, with particular strength noted in the San Francisco District. However, construction activity dipped slightly in the Richmond District partly due to lot shortages.

Reports on multifamily activity varied but were positive on net. Strength in the apartment market was noted by the Dallas District (excluding the Houston metro area), while activity was mixed in the New York District. Growth in multifamily construction was positive in the Boston and Atlanta Districts but was mixed in the Richmond District and slowed further according to New York's report.

Commercial real estate leasing activity generally improved, and outlooks were mostly optimistic, although contacts in a few Districts expressed concern about economic uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential elections. Commercial rents were flat to up, and vacancy rates were generally low and/or declined in reporting Districts, except in the Houston metro area where office vacancies increased further. Sales of commercial properties were characterized as robust in the Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco Districts but softened in the greater Boston area. Commercial construction increased on net, with contacts in the Cleveland and Atlanta Districts reporting increased or high backlogs. Shortages of skilled labor remained a constraint on construction activity in some Districts, such as Cleveland and San Francisco.
Real estate is decent.