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Fed’s Beige Book Highlights Weaknesses in Regional Real Estate Markets

The ""Federal Reserve"":http://www.federalreserve.gov released a new rendition of its market-gauging ""Beige Book"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110413/default.htm Wednesday.
[IMAGE] The report â€" which the Fed describes as an informal review of current market conditions across the country â€" painted a more upbeat picture of economic activity over the past six weeks, however residential and commercial real estate were again branded as two areas hindering growth and recovery.

Beige Book findings are based on anecdotal commentary and observations collected by the 12 Fed districts from businesses and contacts outside the Federal Reserve. Data included in the latest version covers the reporting period from mid-February to early April.

While many districts described improvements in economic activity as only “moderate,” most districts stated that gains were widespread across sectors, and Kansas City described its economic gains as “solid.” Most districts also reported that labor market conditions were generally stronger than in their last accounts from early February.

Residential and commercial real estate performance varied across districts, but for the most part was sub-par.

Real estate markets for single-family homes across all districts were cited as either little changed from low levels


or continuing to deteriorate. Half of the districts reported at least pockets of weakening.

Comments received indicated that market activity was still declining in the St. Louis and Minneapolis districts, while activity in New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco remained weak. Atlanta characterized the market as mixed, with Florida brokers providing most of the signs of improvement.

Both Philadelphia and Atlanta noted that brokers expected the market to improve. Philadelphia reported that agents were seeing a pickup in inquiries, showings, and traffic, although there was little increase in sales.

Boston noted higher activity in just the last few weeks, due in part to improved weather, and Richmond said that the market for lower-priced homes improved.

Seven of the districts described commercial real estate as improved but only “slightly,” while five districts noted that their markets were flat.

Overall market activity was still slow in St. Louis and Philadelphia and remained at low levels in Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco, although San Francisco noted an increase in leasing activity among technology firms.

Chicago and Kansas City cited moderate gains in construction. Office and industrial leasing improved in the Richmond district, although retail was little changed.

Activity in the multifamily sector strengthened in several districts, including Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, both in terms of leasing and construction.

Most districts cited loan demand as either unchanged or slightly improved since the last report.

Several districts reported that credit standards were unchanged or slightly tighter and that competition for quality loans was “intense.”