The Fed released a summary on current economic conditions:
From Fed: Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve District Banks indicate that economic conditions remained weak or deteriorated further during the period from mid-April through May. However, five of the Districts noted that the downward trend is showing signs of moderating. Further, contacts from several Districts said that their expectations have improved, though they do not see a substantial increase in economic activity through the end of the year.
Manufacturing declined or remained weak in most Districts. Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis reported declines in activity, while production remained at very low levels in the San Francisco District. Atlanta and Kansas City indicated that the pace of the decline in manufacturing had moderated or slowed. New York characterized the sector as having stabilized, while Dallas mentioned signs of stabilization. In contrast, Richmond reported a rise in both new orders and shipments.
Philadelphia reported that the primary metals, machinery, and electrical equipment industries remain especially weak, and Cleveland noted that steel shipments continue at depressed levels. Chicago commented that, apart from Asia, export demand was weak. Dallas reported that construction-related manufacturing and the petrochemicals markets remained weak, while San Francisco stated that activity in the wood products industry was depressed and that demand in the metal fabrication industry was extremely weak. Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas all noted weakness in automotive-related industries. In contrast, Boston, Dallas, and San Francisco indicated that high technology industries experienced some increase in activity, and Richmond noted strengthening across a number of industries. Several Districts also reported that the outlook of manufacturers has improved somewhat, though Boston, Cleveland and Kansas City mentioned that capital spending was weak.
On Real Estate and Construction:
Although the residential real estate market remains weak, agents in the New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts reported an uptick in home sales. The reasons cited include seasonal factors, low interest rates, declining house prices, and tax credits for first-time buyers. Much of the sales increase was found in the lower-priced end of the market. New home construction appeared to have stabilized at very low levels in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco, although Kansas City reported an uptick in construction. Home inventories were trending down in Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Dallas. However, Chicago reported that inventories remain elevated.
Commercial real estate markets continued to weaken across all Districts. Vacancy rates for commercial properties were rising in many regions of the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco Districts putting downward pressure on rents. Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis reported new construction projects being postponed or cancelled, and new construction in the New York, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis Districts dropped substantially. Eight Districts cited difficulty in obtaining financing as one of the primary reasons for delaying or stopping construction of new developments and for limiting sales of existing properties.
On Banking and Finance:
Most Districts reported that overall lending activity was stable or weak, but with mixed results across loan categories. Demand for commercial and industrial loans fell in New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and San Francisco. Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Dallas singled out commercial real estate as experiencing weakening demand. Boston reported that commercial real estate transactions were increasingly scarce, and Dallas noted that loan renewals in this category required more borrower equity and smaller loan sizes than in the past. Atlanta and Chicago reported limited credit availability for vehicle dealers and other businesses tied to the auto industry. Demand for mortgage refinancing loans was mixed. New York and Cleveland reported strong demand for these loans, while Richmond noted a waning of residential refinancing demand due to rising interest rates. Richmond also reported an uptick in demand for purchase mortgage loans.
Most Districts said that credit conditions remained stringent or tightened further. Reports from Philadelphia and Cleveland expected that credit will remain tight in the near term. The credit quality of loan applicants and existing clients showed deterioration in Philadelphia, Richmond, Cleveland, and Dallas, although Richmond noted that the rate of deterioration has slowed. New York and Cleveland said that delinquencies had increased across numerous loan categories, particularly those tied to real estate. Cleveland and Kansas City reported increases in bank deposits, with the latter attributing the rise to uncertainty about financial markets.
The Fed noted that retail spending remains still shaky, and that consumers seeking to stretch their budgets continued to shop for bargains and avoided luxury purchases.
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