Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity has expanded since the previous Beige Book report, with all twelve Districts characterizing the pace of growth as either modest or moderate. Since the previous Beige Book, activity in the New York and Philadelphia Districts rebounded from the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Growth in the Boston, Richmond, and Atlanta Districts appears to have increased slightly, while the St. Louis District reports some slowing.
All twelve districts reported some growth in consumer spending. Overall, holiday sales were reported as being modestly higher than in 2011, though sales were below expectations for contacts in many of the Districts. Auto sales were reported as steady or stronger in ten Districts. Citing concerns that consumers will spend cautiously due to ongoing fiscal uncertainty, retail contacts and auto dealers reported a slightly dimmer, though positive, outlook for future sales. Tourism activity was reported to have increased across much of the nation due to strong business and international travel, early snowfall in some ski areas, and a rebound in areas disrupted by Hurricane Sandy.
Eleventh District – Dallas
The Eleventh District economy expanded at a modest pace over the past six weeks. Reports on manufacturing activity remained mixed. Real estate and construction activity continued to improve. Retailers said holiday shopping boosted sales, and automobile dealers reported that sales were above year-ago levels. Staffing, accounting and legal services firms noted steady demand, while reports from transportation service firms were mixed, but improved overall. Energy activity remained at high levels despite a decline in the rig count, and financial firms reported modest growth in loan demand. Agricultural conditions remained dry. Prices were mostly stable, and wage pressures remained limited. Employment levels were steady to up. Many responding firms’ outlooks reflected fiscal uncertainty during the reporting period.
Construction and Real Estate
Contacts in the single-family housing sector reported continued improvement in new and existing home sales. Despite increased construction activity housing inventories remain low, pushing overall prices up. Firms remain cautiously optimistic in their outlooks. Apartment demand continued to ease slightly overall, although occupancy rates remain historically high.
Demand for office and industrial space increased since the last report, according to contacts in the commercial real estate sector. Most firms expect to see an increase in nonresidential construction in 2013. Commercial property investment activity picked up slightly near year-end, and most respondents were fairly optimistic in their outlooks for 2013.