Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beige Book: Commercial real estate "expected to improve"

December's Beige Book for the Federal Reserve District 10, which includes Colorado, noted that construction "remains sluggish," while vacancy rates in commercial real estate is expected to lessen.

Residential and commercial construction remained sluggish in October and November, while commercial real estate sales and vacancy rates were expected to improve in coming months. After contracting with the end of the homebuyers tax credit program, a few District homebuilders noted a slight uptick in housing starts. Still, District home prices edged down and sales continued to fall heading into the typical winter lull in home buying activity. District contacts noted that the starter home market remained active, but long lead times for selling mid- and upper-priced homes were boosting inventories and limiting "move-up" opportunities. Mortgage loan activity rose as homeowners refinanced existing mortgages to lower payments and shorten terms. Commercial construction activity declined and was expected to remain weak over the next three months. District commercial real estate contacts reported little change in vacancy rates, absorption rates, and prices. Some firms, however, reported an uptick in sales and expected vacancy rates to edge down in coming months.

In banking:

Bankers reported stable loan demand, increased deposits, and an improved outlook for loan quality in the recent survey period. Overall loan demand continued to hold steady as demand for commercial and industrial loans, commercial real estate loans, and consumer installment loans remained stable. In contrast, bankers reported stronger demand for residential real estate loans. Compared to the previous survey, credit standards remained unchanged in all major loan categories. Loan quality was essentially unchanged compared to one year ago. Bankers, however, expected loan quality to improve over the next six months. Deposits, especially for transaction accounts and savings accounts, increased after having been flat since late last year.