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Market Archive

Market

Economy growing slow and steady: Beige Book

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NEW YORK (6/5/14)--Though at a "moderate to modest" pace, economic activity picked up in all 12 Federal Reserve districts between April and mid-May, according to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, released Wednesday.

The report, compiled by the Federal Bank of New York between April 7 and May 23, amasses information on the economy nationwide to offer a snapshot of current conditions.

Improvements were led by the auto industry, as "increasingly strong" new vehicle sales were reported by more than half of the districts, while the rest reported at least steady sales. Demand for used vehicles waned by comparison.

Consumer spending also climbed in nearly all 12 districts--though by varying degrees--tourism numbers spiked, and non-auto retail sales grew moderately.

"As the weather has improved, industries that require foot traffic, such as retail and auto sales, have been showing noticeable improvement," wrote Christopher Velarides, Moody's analyst ( Economy.com June 4).

Low housing inventories suppressed sales in the real estate market, while home prices again stepped up throughout most of the United States. Condo and apartment rental markets boomed, and multifamily or apartment construction also is gathering momentum.

Lending throughout the country also gained steam, with about two-thirds of the districts relaying an uptick in loan demand. And while credit standards stood pat, credit delinquency rates and quality improved.

The labor market also broadened, as hiring was stronger for this period throughout the country, with several districts even reporting shortages of skilled workers. Wages have remained flat, however.

Manufacturing activity picked up, including at a notably strong pace in many districts along the East Coast, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.

Strong consumer lending driven by auto sector

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ATLANTA (6/5/14)--In alignment with the recent surge in auto sales, the automotive lending sector continues to post big numbers this year, according to the Equifax National Consumer Credit Trends Report, released this week.

Total outstanding loan balances for autos rose to $884 billion in April, a record high and a 10.8% climb year-over-year.

Nearly $70 billion in new credit had been issued by February, which is a 13% jump annually as well, and only 1% of total current outstanding balances for autos are considered seriously delinquent.

"The boom in auto purchases ended in 2004, and people are now thinking about replacing their jalopies as the average car on the road today is over 11.4 years old, and the financing terms are favorable for those with decent credit histories," said Amy Crews Cutts, Equifax chief economist.

While by no means as strongly as autos, mortgages also appear to be trending higher this year, the report found.

First mortgages posted an increase of 2.7% in April year-over-year, while delinquencies plummeted 24% over that same stretch.

New home-equity revolving credit also posted five-year highs in February--both in total new credit and total number of loans.

Finally, the total balance of home-equity installment loans dropped 13.3% year-over-year; the total number of home-equity installment loans outstanding sank 11% over the same period; and the total balance of severely delinquent home-equity installment loans sits at a five-year low, decreasing 35% from levels seen a year ago.