From the Federal Reserve:
The Second District’s economy has continued to expand since the last report, though at a somewhat diminished pace. Labor market conditions have continued to improve modestly. Retail sales have held steady at favorable levels since the last report. Consumer confidence reports have been mixed. Tourism activity picked up in April but tapered off a bit in early May. Commercial real estate markets have been relatively stable. The residential purchase market has been steady to somewhat softer, but the rental market has continued to improve; new residential construction remains low. Finally, bankers report further weakening in consumer loan demand, tighter credit standards on the commercial sector, and higher delinquency rates on consumer loans but somewhat lower delinquencies in other loan categories.
Construction and Real Estate
Housing markets across the District have been mixed since the last report: the home purchase market has been steady to somewhat softer, but the rental market has continued to strengthen. Buffalo-area Realtors report steady market conditions, with sales activity and pending sales down from a year earlier but prices up roughly 5 percent. More broadly, home prices have been running moderately ahead of a year earlier across most of upstate New York, despite pockets of weakness in metropolitan Rochester and Albany. However, prices in the New York City metropolitan area, including northern New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut, have drifted down slightly and are modestly lower than a year ago.
An authority on New Jersey’s housing industry reports that sales of existing homes have slowed since the last report, and new home sales remained depressed. A sizable inventory of foreclosed properties–roughly equal to nine months of sales–is reported to be putting downward pressure on home prices overall. However, low volume and a sizable incidence of distressed sales make it difficult to gauge price trends in northern New Jersey. Activity in New York City’s co-op and condo market was mixed but generally stable since the last report, with Manhattan, Brooklyn and Bronx holding steady–in terms of both prices and sales activity. Some softening was evident in Queens and Staten Island. Long Island’s market has been stable, though conditions have weakened in the Hamptons, where sales activity is off, especially at the high end.
In contrast with the sluggish purchase market, rental markets have performed fairly well, particularly in New York City: Manhattan rents are reported to be up roughly 6 percent from a year ago. Moreover, when the widespread withdrawal of landlord concessions is factored in, the rise in effective rents has been steeper. Rental vacancy rates have drifted down. Contacts in both New York City and northern New Jersey see relatively little new residential construction, and note that most new and proposed development is for rental housing.
Commercial real estate markets have been largely steady since the last report. Office markets showed signs of modest improvement in New York City, Long Island, and most of upstate New York, as vacancy rates edged down while asking rents were steady to up slightly. However, market conditions weakened somewhat in northern New Jersey, Westchester and Fairfield Counties, and in the Albany area. Industrial vacancy rates rose in Long Island but were little changed in other markets. In much of the District, asking rents on industrial properties, which had been declining through the end of 2010, have leveled off or moved up modestly in recent months.