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Fed’s Beige Book: "Rising mortgage rates and elevated house prices further weakened single-family starts and sales"

by Calculated Risk on 10/19/2022 02:09:00 PM

Fed’s Beige Book “This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas based on information collected on or before October 7, 2022.”

National economic activity expanded modestly on net since the previous report; however, conditions varied across industries and Districts. Four Districts noted flat activity and two cited declines, with slowing or weak demand attributed to higher interest rates, inflation, and supply disruptions. Retail spending was relatively flat, reflecting lower discretionary spending, and auto dealers noted sustained sluggishness in sales stemming from limited inventories, high vehicle prices, and rising interest rates. Travel and tourist activity rose strongly, boosted by continued strength in leisure activity and a pickup in business travel. Manufacturing activity held steady or expanded in most Districts in part due to easing in supply chain disruptions, though there were a few reports of output declines. Demand for nonfinancial services rose. Activity in transportation services was mixed, as port activity increased strongly whereas reports of trucking and freight demand were mixed. Rising mortgage rates and elevated house prices further weakened single-family starts and sales, but helped buoy apartment leasing and rents, which generally remained high. Commercial real estate slowed in both construction and sales amid supply shortages and elevated construction and borrowing costs, and there were scattered reports of declining property prices. Industrial leasing remained robust, while office demand was tepid. Bankers in most reporting Districts cited declines in loan volumes, partly a result of shrinking residential real estate lending. Energy activity expanded moderately, whereas agriculture reports were mixed, as drought conditions and high input costs remained a challenge. Outlooks grew more pessimistic amidst growing concerns about weakening demand.

Employment continued to rise at a modest to moderate pace in most Districts. Several Districts reported a cooling in labor demand, with some noting that businesses were hesitant to add to payrolls amid increased concerns of an economic downturn. There were also scattered mentions of hiring freezes. Overall labor market conditions remained tight, though half of Districts noted some easing of hiring and/or retention difficulties.emphasis added

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