From the Federal Reserve:
Economic activity in the Second District has continued to expand at a moderate pace since the last report. Business contacts report some pickup in input price pressures but relatively few say they are increasing their selling prices. The labor market has shown scattered signs of improvement: manufacturers report an upturn in hiring, and a major employment agency notes increasingly strong demand for temps. Retailers report that sales have generally been strong and ahead of plan in January and early February. Auto sales in upstate New York were also described as robust since the beginning of the year. Tourism activity has been mixed but generally strong thus far in 2013, with hotels getting an additional boost from displaced residents and recovery workers in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Both residential and commercial real estate markets showed signs of improving since the last report. Finally, bankers report increased loan demand, no change in credit standards, further narrowing in loan spreads, and lower delinquency rates on commercial loans and mortgages.
Construction and Real Estate
Residential real estate markets in the District have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. A major appraisal firm reports that New York City’s co-op and condo market has remained surprisingly active in early 2013, following an exceptionally strong fourth quarter. Apartment sales are up strongly from a year ago, and tight inventories are starting to nudge up prices across the board. One contact notes that year-end inventory levels were the lowest he has seen in more than 12 years. The apartment rental market, however, has leveled off; after rising at a roughly 5-10 percent rate in 2012, rents on apartments in both Manhattan and the outer boroughs are estimated to be running just 1-2 percent ahead of a year ago in early 2013.
An expert on northern New Jersey’s housing market reports a pickup in activity and an improvement in the general tone of the market, describing the current season as the best since 2007. Residential builders are reported to be increasingly optimistic–they anticipate a substantially better year than 2012 and are investing more heavily in new projects. Single-family construction is seen as picking up, as multi-family construction retains momentum. While there remains a large overhang of foreclosed and distressed properties, many of these are expected to be snapped up by investors. Realtors in the Buffalo area report continued favorable conditions in the housing market: prices have risen steadily at a moderate pace, inventory levels are fairly low, and sales activity has been steady.