The Federal Reserve has released the Beige Book
The Beige Book is a compilation of anecdotal information and data on current economic conditions across the country. The findings are NOT THE VIEWS OF FEDERAL RESERVE OFFICIALS...instead, each Federal Reserve bank interviews key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources in their specific district. This report is published eight times a year.
They call it the Beige Book because its Beige.
This edition was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of St.Louis and is based on information collected on or before July 19, 2010.
Below is a summary of the findings and a few excerpts on bank lending and housing. I called attention to some of the more important observations.
Economic activity has continued to increase, on balance, since the previous survey, although the Cleveland and Kansas City Districts reported that the level of economic activity generally held steady. Among those Districts reporting improvements in economic activity, a number of them noted that the increases were modest, and two Districts, Atlanta and Chicago, said that the pace of economic activity had slowed recently.
Real Estate and Construction
Nearly all Districts reported sluggish housing markets in the months since the homebuyer tax credit expired on April 30. While some Districts, such as Boston and St. Louis, reported an increase in May and June home sales on a year-over-year basis, some contacts noted that these sales may reflect closings of homes under contract by the April tax credit deadline.
The Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Kansas City Districts reported that home sales are expected to weaken going forward.
Residential construction remained limited in several Districts. In the
Atlanta District, residential construction activity softened from
already weak levels. Homebuilders in the Cleveland District do not
expect a turnaround in new home construction any time this year.
Builders in the Chicago District are not introducing new inventory
without a signed contract on a home. Housing starts were expected to
decline for the second half of the year in the Dallas District and to
increase slightly over the next three months in the Kansas City
Commercial and industrial real estate markets continued to struggle in all twelve Districts. Overall, vacancy rates were flat to slightly increased and continued to exert downward pressure on rents. Construction activity remained weak in most Districts. The outlook for commercial and industrial real estate across the Districts ranged from further declines in activity to slow growth.
Banking and Finance
Reports on banking conditions were largely mixed across the Districts.
Banking activity in Richmond and loan demand in Kansas City increased modestly. Overall loan demand was reported as soft or weak in Cleveland, Atlanta, and Dallas, while total outstanding loan volume decreased in recent months in St. Louis but was steady in Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Demand for residential mortgage loans eased in the Philadelphia District but increased in the New York District; Cleveland reported residential mortgage activity below expectations at given rates; and real estate lending decreased in St. Louis. Demand for consumer loans was weak in Cleveland and eased in Philadelphia; Atlanta and St. Louis indicated a decline in consumer lending; but demand for consumer loans increased in New York and Kansas City.
Most Districts reporting on credit standards continued to note that lending standards remain restrictive. New York reported tighter credit standards for all categories except consumer loans, while Kansas City reported tighter commercial lending standards.
Reports on credit quality were mixed in Cleveland and Kansas City, while quality was stable in San Francisco. Credit quality improved slightly in Philadelphia, Richmond, and Chicago. In the Dallas District, nonperforming loans have stabilized and are not expected to worsen. Meanwhile, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Richmond continued to report delinquencies above historic norms. Delinquency rates in the New York District decreased for consumer loans but experienced little or no change in other categories
Credit was limited for commercial real estate loans in Chicago, and demand fell for these loans in New York and Kansas City. Demand for commercial loans was flat to increasing in the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago, and Kansas City Districts; in contrast, St. Louis reported a decrease in commercial loans outstanding, while New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco reported restrained or decreasing demand in this lending category. r no change in other categories.
Labor Markets, Wages, and Prices
Labor market conditions improved gradually in several Districts. New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Richmond, and Atlanta all reported that labor markets improved, albeit modestly in some cases, while Boston and Dallas reported that employment was steady.
Philadelphia, Atlanta, Richmond, Chicago, and Minneapolis reported that temporary employment experienced increased demand. Contacts in the Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts said that they continued to rely on temporary staff over permanent hires.
Cleveland, Richmond, and Chicago
saw hiring in the manufacturing sector. Cleveland also reported some new
job openings in the healthcare industry. Boston and Cleveland noted
that firms in some services industries were hiring mostly for
replacement. Dallas reported that firms in the energy industry
experienced significant regional layoffs as a result of the deepwater
drilling moratorium. San Francisco noted continued high levels of
unemployment and limited hiring.
Wage pressures remained largely contained across most Districts. Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, Minneapolis, and San Francisco reported little or no change in wages, while Cleveland, Chicago, and Kansas City reported that wage pressures were small or remained subdued. Dallas reported that wage pressures were mostly nonexistent, with the exception of the airline industry.
Prices of final goods and services were relatively stable in most Districts. Several Districts indicated that prices of raw materials also held steady, and only a few Districts reported input price increases.
Manufacturing and Other Business Activity
Manufacturing activity continued to expand in most Districts, although several Districts reported that activity had slowed or leveled off during the reporting period. Districts also noted improved conditions in the services sector.
Reports on retail sales during the early summer months were generally positive, although in most Districts the increases were modest. The outlook for sales was mixed.
Plain and Simple: while outlooks were generally mixed across most economic sectos, housing was a clear cut loser.