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Beige Book Shows Brighter Economy Except for Nonresidential Construction

October 2, 2009
A September 9 report from the latest Beige Book, a summary of informal soundings of business conditions, "indicate that economic activity continued to stabilize in July and August."  The districts are referred to by the name of their headquarters city. "Relative to the last report, Dallas indicated that economic activity had firmed, while Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Richmond, and San Francisco mentioned signs of improvement. Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and New York generally described economic activity as stable or showing signs of stabilization; St. Louis remarked that the pace of decline appeared to be moderating. Most Districts noted that the outlook for economic activity among their business contacts remained cautiously positive." The Beige Book was also a bit more upbeat about homebuilding but not about conditions in nonresidential construction and real estate. Residential "construction remained at low levels overall, although Chicago and Dallas reported a small increase in activity. Reports on commercial real estate markets indicated that demand for space remained weak and that construction continued to decline in all Districts. Atlanta, Philadelphia, Richmond, and San Francisco reported that vacancy rates increased, while rates held steady in the Boston and Kansas City Districts and were mixed in New York. Boston, Dallas, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Richmond commented that the demand for space remained weak. Commercial rents declined according to Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond. Rent concessions were reported in the Richmond and San Francisco markets, and Richmond noted that some landlords had postponed property improvements in an effort to conserve cash. Construction remained at very low levels, with modest improvements noted in public construction in the Chicago, Cleveland, and Minneapolis Districts." The reports are consistent with what nonresidential contractors have been telling AGC: outside of stimulus money for highway construction and a few other niches, conditions have not brightened at all. To report what you are encountering, email simonsonk@agc.org. For more information on AGC Cheif Economist Ken Simonson's weekly economic newsletter, visit http://www.agc.org/cs/news_media/newsletters.
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