© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Fed reports 'modest pace' of economic growth in St. Louis

The Federal Reserve reported economic growth at a "modest pace" in its five western districts since mid-July, including St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco, according to the Fed's Beige Book released Wednesday.

The Fed said that reports from all 12 districts suggested continued growth in national economic activity, but noted mixed conditions or "a deceleration" compared with previous periods in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Atlanta.

The Beige Book, which is released eight times a year, is based on anecdotal information compiled from community and business leaders who offer their perspectives to the Fed confidentially. The Eighth District includes St. Louis and eastern Missouri, southern Illinois, Arkansas and parts of Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

Overall economic activity in the Eighth District increased in both the manufacturing and services sectors, according to the report. Retail sales reports were mixed, but auto sales increased over a year ago. Residential real estate markets held steady.

Here are some details from the report:

* July year-to-date home sales were down 1 percent in both St. Louis and Memphis compared to the same period in 2009, but increased 19 percent in Louisville and 5 percent in Little Rock.

* Reports of retail sales in July and August were mixed. Compared to a year ago, 37 percent of the retailers polled said they saw an increase in sales, while 42 percent said they saw decreases and 21 percent reported no changes. Sales continued to be weak for higher-priced items, and one-third of the retailers said their inventories were too high. More than half -- 56 percent -- were optimistic that sales for September and October would increase over 2009 levels.

* Car dealers throughout the district reported that sales in July and early August were up over last year. About 44 percent said their sales increased. Nearly half of the dealers said their used car sales had increased relative to new car sales. About 20 percent reported more acceptances of finance applications, but 12 percent reported more rejections.

* Residential construction continued to improve throughout most of the district. Single-family housing permits increased by 18 percent in St. Louis in July, compared to 2009.

* Demand in the commercial and industrial real estate markets was mixed, with overall activity characterized as weak. In St. Louis, industrial vacancy rates decreased in the second quarter of 2010, compared to the first quarter. But both the downtown and suburban office vacancy rates increased.

* A survey of senior loan officers reported little change in overall lending activity for the three-month period ending in July.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.