Beige Book April 2008

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 April. The Fed commented on the national real estate and construction market as follows:

Housing markets and home construction remained sluggish throughout most of the nation, though there were few signs of any quickening in the pace of deterioration. Ongoing weakness in housing markets, in general, was reported in almost all Districts. Sales activity was generally reported to be declining in the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco Districts, while Kansas City and Chicago noted slack demand and excess inventories. On the other hand, the Cleveland District saw some pickup in activity, while Richmond and Atlanta reported some pockets of improvement; Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago cited some recent pickup in traffic or buyer inquiries. New residential construction was reported to have remained at depressed levels, and none of the Districts reported any pickup since the last report.

Declines or downward pressures in selling prices were specifically reported in the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco Districts. In particular, New York and San Francisco noted some incipient price declines in areas that had previously shown resilience–respectively, New York City and the Pacific Northwest, as well as Utah. On the other hand, the Cleveland District noted some stabilization in home prices.

Commercial real estate markets were generally reported to be steady or softening in most areas. Weaker conditions in the rental market were reported in eight Districts: New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. On the other hand, the leasing market was found to be steady in Boston, Kansas City and Dallas. Reports on commercial development were mixed with activity having weakened in the Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Francisco Districts, but having increased in the Cleveland, Chicago, and Kansas City Districts. St. Louis characterized commercial construction as strong. However, sales of commercial properties were generally indicated to be sluggish, while prices were said to be under downward pressure. The Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts all reported weakness in commercial real estate sales and prices.

Click here to read the full report.

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