The Beige Book: July 2007

The Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information.

The Federal Reserve has issued its Beige Book report for July. The Fed commented on the national real estate and construction market as follows:

Most Districts said that residential construction and real estate activity continued to decline on balance. Many Districts, however, noted increased activity in some individual market locales or segments. Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis said construction decreased. Boston and Kansas City said housing markets remained “soft” and “weak,” respectively, while San Francisco indicated that residential markets were weak and had slowed further in some areas. New York said markets were mixed but stable. Two notable exceptions were the Cleveland and Richmond regions, which experienced slight increases in sales. Atlanta said home inventories remained high, as did Dallas (even after a slight decline in the recent period). Inventories increased in Kansas City, but they declined in New York, and contacts in Boston and Cleveland described the number of homes for sale as “normal” and “acceptable,” respectively. District reports on home price appreciation were mixed: Boston noted a return to price appreciation and Kansas City indicated slower rates of decline. But Richmond and Chicago reported slower rates of increase or the beginning of declines, and in the Dallas District, some contacts projected a correction in entry-level home prices. Looking ahead, contacts in the Cleveland District were uncertain about how long it would be until the market turned, and analysts in Dallas had revised their housing outlook down. Contacts in Atlanta expected further declines overall, though they anticipated the market in Florida would be flat.

Commercial construction and real estate markets were generally more active than during the previous reporting period. New York said markets strengthened and San Francisco reported continued firming. Cleveland, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Kansas City indicated small gains in development. Richmond and Dallas described local markets as still “solid” and “robust,” respectively. Chicago said the pace of development was steady, and St. Louis said markets were mixed. Richmond and Chicago observed that overall commercial vacancy rates were stable. Office vacancy rates fell in four regions. Demand for industrial space increased in four Districts, while net absorption in the Minneapolis District was negative. Richmond, Kansas City, and San Francisco reported increases in rental rates for commercial space, and New York said that the asking rents for space “continued to soar.”

Read the entire report here.

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