Beige Book: Economy Expands at Moderate Pace
According to the Federal Reserve’s recently released Beige Book, reports from the twelve districts indicated that economic activity generally expanded at a modest to moderate pace since January.
Manufacturing conditions improved in nearly all districts, but the increases were generally modest. Boston, New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis and San Francisco reported some increases in factory activity, but the majority noted that the pace of recovery was slow. Conditions were mixed in the Philadelphia and Dallas districts, and manufacturing activity in the Kansas City district weakened. Contacts in the Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago and Kansas City districts cited concerns over government regulation and fiscal uncertainty as a reason for slow growth.
Banking & Financial Services
Loan demand was steady or increased across all the districts that reported. Residential real estate loan demand was strong in the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta and Chicago districts, mainly driven by refinances due to continued low interest rates. Demand for commercial real estate loans was also strong in the Cleveland, Richmond, and Kansas City districts. Auto lending increased in the Cleveland and Atlanta Districts, and Philadelphia and Dallas cited growth in energy-related loan demand. San Francisco continued to report a slowdown in venture capital and private equity activity, but contacts noted an increase in the number of private technology companies moving toward an IPO.
Asset quality improved at banks in the Philadelphia, Kansas City and San Francisco districts. Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta and San Francisco lenders reported high competition for qualified borrowers. Borrowing standards were reported to have been loosened in some districts. Atlanta contacts noted additional loan capacity, but continued to be cautious with loan activity. Cleveland bankers considered cost cutting measures, including layoffs, due to shrinking net interest margins. New York contacts indicated a decrease in loan spreads for all loan categories, particularly residential mortgages, and bankers in the Chicago district said that very few mortgage originations were being kept on their balance sheets and that interest rate swaps were being utilized to hedge against a potential rise in interest rates. Bankers were generally optimistic about future activity in the Philadelphia and Dallas districts for the near term, but Atlanta bankers expected activity to ease toward the middle of the year.
To read the full Beige Book report click here.