South Florida business sees only modest improvement

, Daily Business Review


Business conditions in South Florida and across the region are showing only modest improvement and that's not expected to change anytime soon, according to a Federal Reserve survey.

Most businesses in the Fed's southern region, which includes Florida, described economic activity as increasing marginally in October. Most businesses surveyed weren't optimistic that 2013 would be any better, the survey released Wednesday reported.

"Consumer spending grew at a moderate pace in most districts, while manufacturing weakened," the central bank said in its Beige Book survey, which is based on reports from the Fed's 12 district banks around the U.S. "Contacts in a number of districts expressed concern and uncertainty about the federal budget, especially the fiscal cliff."

The region's retailers cited mild sales growth on the eve of the holiday buying season, while automobile dealers continued to experience strong results.

Residential real estate brokers reported an increase in existing home sales and prices, while home-builders said sales were flat to slightly up.

The Atlanta district researchers noted that real estate investors "were more active in Florida" than elsewhere in the district and that multifamily development continued to the strongest sector of the commercial real estate market.

Bankers surveyed noted that overall loan demand had picked up slightly.

Overall, tourism activity remained robust while manufacturing activity softened as new orders, production, and employment levels decelerated.

Payrolls continued to expand at a modest pace, and price pressures remained in check, businesses said.

The Beige Book provides anecdotal evidence on the health of the economy two weeks before the Federal Open Market Committee meets in Washington on Dec. 11-12.

Many economists believe the Fed could announce plans to buy more Treasury bonds at that meeting to replace a program set to expire at the end of the year. The goal of the program is to lower long-term interest rates and encourage more borrowing and spending.

The purchases would come on top of the Fed's mortgage bond buying program, which is intended to lower mortgage rates and make home-buying more affordable.

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