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Fed Beige Book finds weak housing market, slight uptick in CRE

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The economy in most parts of the country continued to improve but mostly at a modest pace, according to the Federal Reserve. The Beige Book, which gathers anecdotal evidence of economic conditions in the dozen Fed districts nationwide, showed that real estate is lagging around the country, however, commercial real estate is picking up in several districts. The report was released Wednesday afternoon. The Fed said residential real estate markets are depressed in every federal district and little changed from the low levels seen in the last Beige Book. Philadelphia reported seeing signs of improvement in terms of more inquiries, home showings and traffic, although there was little increase in sales or construction. Construction is described as subdued in Chicago, where the spring building season is anticipated to be weaker than usual. Market activity is still declining in he St. Louis and Minneapolis districts, while activity in New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco districts remains weak. Seven districts reported improvement in the commercial real estate sector since the last Beige Book report, though the Fed notes that conditions are still weak overall. Market activity was still slow in the St. Louis and Philadelphia districts and remained at low levels in the Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco districts. Markets in the San Francisco District were characterized as subdued, but leasing activity increased among technology firms. "Most other Districts noted improvements, albeit slight, in activity," the Fed said. "Chicago and Kansas City cited moderate gains in construction, with Chicago highlighting gains in healthcare and automotive industries. Improvements in the Cleveland district were also driven by healthcare projects and, to a lesser extent, by manufacturing and energy." Office and industrial leasing improved in the Richmond District, although retail was little changed, according to the report. Lending is still constricted in most districts across the U.S. and credit standards remained unchanged from the last report. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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