WASHINGTON (1/16/14)--The 12 Federal Reserve districts indicated economic activity expanded across most regions and sectors from late November through the end of the year, according to the Fed's Beige Book.
"The economic outlook is positive in most Districts, with some reports citing expectations of 'more of the same' and some expecting a pickup in growth," the Fed report said of the data collected on or before Jan. 6 in the Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, St. Louis and San Francisco districts.
The Beige Book provides anecdotal information about the economy to the Federal Open Market Committee two weeks prior to its scheduled meetings. The policy-making committee meets Jan. 28-29.
Wednesday's report from the Fed found retail spending was "modestly to moderately higher" in most areas compared with a year earlier. The Kansas City district said holiday sales were lower than expected, "which retailers there attributed to a shorter selling season and harsh weather conditions."
No substantial changes were reported in loan volume, although New York noted a "moderate" decline. Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco cited "slight to moderate growth." "Contacts in some Districts expressed concern about new banking regulations and their potential negative impact on lending and operating costs," the Fed reported.
Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco cited instances where financial institutions relaxed their underwriting standards, which was attributed to more competition in the lending field.
The decline in residential real estate loans in New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Kansas City was primarily due to reduced refinancing activity rather than fewer first mortgage applications. The latter has slightly increased in some districts, the Fed said.
Demand deposits volume increased in the Cleveland and Dallas districts, remained stable in Kansas City and decreased in the St. Louis district.
According to the Beige Book, most districts reported increases in home sales in the closing months of 2013 compared with last year, but some indicated that year-over-year residential sales growth had slowed relative to earlier quarters in 2013.
Home prices continued to trend upward in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco, and remained stable in the Cleveland and Richmond districts.