Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fed's Beige Book: "Economic activity continued to be weak" in Summer

by Calculated Risk on 7/29/2009 02:00:00 PM

From the Fed: Beige Book

Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts suggest that economic activity continued to be weak going into the summer, but most Districts indicated that the pace of decline has moderated since the last report or that activity has begun to stabilize, albeit at a low level.
Most Districts reported sluggish retail activity.
emphasis added
And on real estate:
Commercial real estate leasing markets were described as either "weak" or "slow" in all 12 Districts, although the severity of the downturn varied somewhat across Districts. While the office vacancy rate was up and rents were down in the Dallas District, market fundamentals there remained stronger than the national average. Market conditions in the New York District are significantly worse than one year ago, on average, but have been relatively stable in recent weeks and some parts of the District report improving fundamentals. Office vacancy rates continued to climb in the Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Richmond, and San Francisco Districts, as well as in Manhattan, resulting in sizable leasing concessions and/or declines in asking rents. ... Commercial real estate sales volume remained low, even "non-existent" in some Districts, reportedly due to a combination of tight credit and weak demand. Construction activity was limited and/or declining in most Districts, although exceptions were noted for health and institutional construction in the St. Louis District, public sector construction in the Chicago District, and the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Tight credit was cited as an ongoing factor in the dearth of new construction activity. The commercial real estate outlook was mixed, both within and across Districts. Some contacts expect commercial real estate markets to improve within two quarters and others predict further market deterioration for the remainder of 2009 and possibly through late 2010.

Residential real estate markets in most Districts remained weak, but many reported signs of improvement. The Minneapolis and San Francisco Districts cited large increases in home sales compared with 2008 levels, and other Districts reported rising sales in some submarkets. Of the areas that continued to experience year--over--year sales declines, all except St Louis--where sales were down steeply-- also reported that the pace of decline was moderating. In general, the low end of the market, especially entry-level homes, continued to perform relatively well; contacts in the New York, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts attributed this relative strength, at least in part, to the first--time homebuyer tax credit. Condo sales were still far below year--before levels according to the Boston and New York reports. In general, home prices continued to decline in most markets, although a number of Districts saw possible signs of stabilization. The Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago Districts mentioned that the increasing number of foreclosure sales was exerting downward pressure on home prices. Residential construction reportedly remains quite slow, with the Chicago, Cleveland, and Kansas City Districts noting that financing is difficult.
It is the usual pattern for Commercial real estate (CRE) to follow residential off the cliff, but I'm surprised anyone thinks CRE will recovery in a couple of quarters. I think CRE will be crushed this year and next.

More beige shoots ...