Interest Rate Roundup

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Beige Book shows broad economic stability. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The latest Beige Book report on the state of the economy was just released by the Fed. The summary suggests we're seeing more stability and/or gradual improvement in the economy:

"Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicate that economic conditions have generally improved modestly since the last report. Eight Districts indicated some pickup in activity or improvement in conditions, while the remaining four--Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, and Atlanta--reported that conditions were little changed and/or mixed."

On housing, the report confirms my prediction months ago that the market was slowly but surely finding its footing. But the outlook for commercial real estate remains pretty awful. A brief excerpt:

"Residential real estate conditions were somewhat improved from very low levels, on balance, led by the lower end of the market. Most Districts reported some pickup in home sales, though prices were generally said to be flat or declining modestly; residential construction was characterized as weak, but some Districts did note some pickup in activity. Commercial real estate markets and construction activity were depicted as very weak and, in many cases, deteriorating."

Other nuggets of information: Retail sales have a better tenor. The job market still stinks, but is not getting worse. Lean inventories will likely need to be rebuilt. Lending conditions remain tight, while demand for new credit is anemic.

All in all, it's a "blah" report -- not so hot, not so cold.


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