Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fed Releases Regional Economic Stats

by Nancy Osborne, COO of ERATE

(from April 22, 2008)

The so called Beige Book report of regional economic statistics was released by the Fed to reflect the overall economic health of the 12 Districts of the Federal Reserve, seemingly taking the "economic temperature" of the nation since the month of February. The news appears to support a weakening economy in 75% of the districts as housing starts have fallen to a 17-year low and foreclosure filings climbed 57%. The news on property values is also bleak as prices have fallen in many areas of the country and could be down by as much as 10% in some locations as the supply of homes for sale continues to outpace demand. Tightened lending guidelines, coupled with the declining credit quality of many loan applicants, means the pool of qualified buyers will continue to shrink dramatically. Overall consumer spending, the linchpin of economic activity in the U.S., has declined in response to the housing crisis as retailers nationwide have begun reporting slow to declining sales, in areas beyond that of the automotive industry, in over 80% of the districts.

The unemployment rate is 5.1% while the consumer price index (CPI) rose 4.00% with the core rate, which excludes food and energy, rising 2.4%. However anemic growth had been reported by the end of 2007, as overall growth had slowed from the brisk pace in the 3rd quarter of 4.9% down to 0.6% by the 4th quarter as both consumption as well as business spending had slowed decidedly. In response, the Fed has exercised a policy of monetary easing as they have brought the Fed Funds rate down to 2.25% from 4.25% and will be expected to cut another .25% from the rate at the next FOMC meeting on April 29th-30th.

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