The Federal Reserve just released the Beige Book, at 2pm today which provides anecdotal commentary on the economy nationally and across the regions of its member banks.

Here’s real estate and mortgage excerpts from the overall report.

Nearly all Districts reported weak housing markets characterized by reduced selling prices and low, but stable, sales activity.

Real Estate and Construction

Residential real estate continued at a slow pace nationwide. Sales were down in most Districts, but mixed activity was noted in the Boston, Atlanta and Minneapolis Districts. Boston, New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Dallas noted decreases in housing prices. Inventories of unsold homes remained high in the New York, Atlanta, Kansas City and San Francisco Districts, but declined in Chicago and Minneapolis. Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago and Kansas City reported relatively stronger demand for lower- and middle-priced “starter homes.”

Commercial real estate markets weakened broadly. Vacancy rates rose in Boston, New York, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco, but were mixed across markets in the St. Louis District. Leasing activity was down in almost all Districts. Rents fell in the Boston, New York and Kansas City Districts. Despite reductions in construction materials costs, commercial building activity declined in many Districts with tighter credit conditions as a factor.

Banking and Finance

Business and consumer lending activity continued to slow in most Districts. New York reported weakening loan demand in all categories, while Kansas City and San Francisco also witnessed substantial lending declines. Lending activity in other Districts was mixed among loan categories. In contrast, Philadelphia indicated that its banks saw loan volume rise in November, and some regional banks reported picking up new business borrowers. Cleveland reported that business loan volume has been steady to higher, and some bankers reported actively marketing their loan business.

Credit standards rose across the nation, with several Districts noting increases in loan delinquencies and defaults, especially in the real estate sector. Credit conditions remained tight. Chicago reported that FDIC actions and Federal Reserve lending had improved liquidity and slowed deposit outflows. Dallas indicated that government capital investments have led larger institutions to feel less constrained in their lending, while some smaller banks reported that scrutiny from regulators was making new deals more difficult to forge.

Here’s the NY District perspective from you know who.

A major residential appraisal firm reports substantial deterioration in New York City’s housing market over the past two months: prices of Manhattan co-ops and condos are reported to have fallen by 15 to 20 percent since mid-summer, though it is hard to get a clear handle on prices due to thin volume–much of the recent activity is reportedly from desperate sellers. Transaction activity has dropped off noticeably, and there has been a large increase in the number of listings. Some buyers that had signed contracts for units under construction earlier this year are having trouble getting financing at the contract price now that market values have dropped.

(I actually said 15%, ranging from 10%-20%)

Here’s the map (shades of beige, of course) in WSJ


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One Response to “[FedSpeak] Beige Colored Glasses”

  1. Edd Gillespie says:

    The main difficulty we have here is that the headlines are repeating what the Biege Book says. The local markets are just not that bad (‘course they never were too good either) even though the 800 number guys have dried up and blowed away. Not to diminish the seriousness of the national (now global) economic situation, but for us here and now I am concerned that if enough people say the sky is falling it may come true.