Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District
Economic activity expanded at a measured pace in recent weeks, according to reports from contacts in the twelve Federal Reserve Districts. Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco grew at a modest pace, while St. Louis and Minneapolis indicated a somewhat stronger increase in activity. In contrast, Boston reported a slower rate of growth. Weaker conditions in New York were attributed to widespread disruptions at the end of October and into November caused by Hurricane Sandy. Philadelphia reported general weakness that was exacerbated by the hurricane. However, in the Boston and Richmond Districts, the storm’s effects were mostly limited. Contacts in a number of Districts expressed concern and uncertainty about the federal budget, especially the fiscal cliff.
Real Estate and Construction
Overall, markets for single-family homes continued to improve across most Districts with the exception of Boston and Philadelphia. Residential real estate markets in the New York District were mixed but generally firm prior to the storm. Selling prices were steady or rising. Boston, New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Dallas noted declining or tight inventories. The Cleveland District indicated that the number of single-family housing starts had increased since our last report and from a year ago; most sales contracts were in higher price-point categories. Similarly, Richmond noted more residential work in the high-end home category for the first time in three years, and builders cited significant pent-up demand in the first-time buyer segment. Atlanta indicated that existing home sales were up slightly compared to a year ago and reported that investors were more active in Florida than in the rest of the District. In Chicago, residential construction increased at a slow but steady pace in October and early November, and construction increased for single-family as well as multi-family homes. St. Louis reported that residential real estate market conditions continued to improve, and Minneapolis indicated that segments of construction and real estate were growing at a double-digit clip. Kansas City characterized residential real estate activity as brisk and noted that a solid rise in home sales had reduced home inventories. Dallas noted that single-family housing activity remained strong, with both new and existing home sales activity increasing. San Francisco reported that home demand continued to strengthen and that home sales continued to grow on a sustained basis in most areas, spurring new home construction. However, sales growth generally slowed for both the condominium and single-family home markets in the Boston District, and the Philadelphia District noted that October began as a disappointing month for some Realtors, only to be punctuated by Hurricane Sandy.
Construction and commercial real estate activity generally improved across Districts since the last report. Gains, albeit modest in most cases, were reported by Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago, and Minneapolis. The gains among Cleveland’s contacts were tempered by reports in recent weeks of a slowdown in inquiries and a decline in public-sector projects. Kansas City described activity as holding firm and noted that real estate markets remained stronger than a year ago. Demand for office and industrial space continued to increase in Dallas, although contacts at some businesses said they were “holding back on expansions due to uncertainty.” Several Districts noted segments of little change in commercial real estate activity. Boston described market fundamentals as flat, and San Francisco depicted market conditions as stable but with pockets of strength for large infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges. Commercial and industrial conditions were mixed in the St. Louis District and throughout most of New York prior to the hurricane. New York added that, while office markets across upstate New York were unaffected by the storm, there were some signs of recent softening.
Eleventh District- Dallas
The Eleventh District economy expanded at a modest pace over the past six weeks. Reports on manufacturing and transportation services activity were mixed. Demand for staffing services declined, while that for other business services held steady or increased slightly. Retailers’ reports on demand were mixed, while automobiles sales were flat. Residential sales and construction increased, and energy activity remained steady at high levels. Financial firms reported mixed demand. Agricultural conditions remained mostly dry. Most respondents said prices held steady, and employment levels were steady to up. Many firms’ outlooks remain uncertain, given regulatory and fiscal concerns and short-term disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Construction and Real Estate
Single-family housing activity remained strong. Both new and existing home sales activity increased over the past six weeks. Contacts noted that despite a pickup in new construction, low inventories of both existing and new homes have led to moderate price increases overall. Apartment construction remained robust, but contacts said that leasing activity slowed. Outlooks are positive through year-end.
Contacts in the commercial real estate industry said that demand for office and industrial space continued to increase since the last report. Contacts said that some businesses were holding back on expansions due to uncertainty, but overall outlooks remained positive. Investment activity remains less aggressive than earlier in the year, although some contacts noted that investment in apartment development remains quite strong.