Reports from the Federal Reserve Banks indicate that economic activity continued to expand in late July and August, although several districts indicated that the pace had slowed since their last reports. Districts’ characterizations of the rate of expansion ranged from slow (St. Louis) to solid (San Francisco), with many districts reporting modest or moderate growth.
According to the report from Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, household spending softened in many parts of the nation, reflecting lackluster retail sales and some cooling in new and existing home sales. Conditions in the manufacturing sector improved nationwide, especially among capital equipment and other durable goods makers. Noticeable price increases were noted for oil, natural gas, steel, lumber, cement, concrete and other building materials.
Residential construction activity remained at high levels but slowed a bit in some regions. Nonresidential construction remained tepid, Simonson said, as did demand for commercial and industrial space. Consumer prices were generally flat or up modestly, although there were noticeable price increases for energy and some material inputs. Home price appreciation, home sales and residential construction activity remained at high levels in most districts, although there were numerous reports of slight cooling in market activity. Signs of moderation in the pace of home price appreciation and/or sales were reported by New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco. Commercial real estate markets were little changed from the last survey period with most districts reporting stable but high vacancies and steady but low rents.