Fed Reports on Credit Trends, Vehicle Sales, More

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Among other trends, the Federal Reserve discovered that household credit decreased marginally since its last report. In fact, several districts observed higher delinquencies on mortgages and other consumer loans.

For example, New York, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco posted a declining demand for mortgages, which officials said was coupled with tighter underwriting standards.

Meanwhile, Cleveland said consumer lending was flat to down, while Philadelphia and Dallas said lending was just flat. On a more positive note, St. Louis said consumer loans grew.

"Lenders in Philadelphia said it was unlikely they would meet their targets for this year, and bankers in Cleveland noted that they expected mortgage demand to remain weak into 2008," the board said. "Interest rates on household loans increased in many districts."

Moreover, the board reported that trucking firms, which many dealers and auctions use to transport vehicles, have passed along higher fuel costs through surcharges. However, the Fed said shippers were "unable to implement any other price increases."

The board went on to say that district reports on vehicle incentives were mixed. Chicago said incentives were steady, while Dallas indicated new discounts.

"Many districts described overall wage gains as moderate and/or similar to the previous reporting period," officials explained. "However, many also pointed to significant upward pressure on wages and salaries for in-demand, high-skilled workers."

Reviewing consumer spending, the Federal Reserve found that, on average, it increased at a modest pace. This was despite the fact that some districts said sales were mixed or below expectations, executives said.

"Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis all shared the general assessment that consumer spending rose modestly, while Philadelphia said retail-sales growth was quite strong in May but ‘closer to trend' in June," according to the Fed.

"New York, Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas reported sales as flat and/or below expectations," the board continued. "The remaining regions described sales as mixed. A number of districts noted that high gas prices restrained spending. Chicago also noted a negative impact from high food prices, and Dallas mentioned that wet weather depressed sales."

Officials also said new-vehicle sales in several regions were described as "flat" or "lackluster," even though dealers in Philadelphia and Chicago reported some improvements between June and early July.

"Many districts commented on the relative strength of demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, compared with larger automobiles and of foreign brands compared to domestics," the board explained.

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