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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

 

Fed’s Beige Book from Google News

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WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The following are excerpts from the Fed’s Beige Book report, which gives commentary on current economic conditions in the United States: See related story about Beige Book.

On the economy broadly: “ Compared with prior summaries, the reports on balance suggest ongoing improvement in economic conditions in recent months, with most Districts highlighting more favorable conditions than identified in reports from the late spring through early fall.”

Consumer spending: “ Reports on consumer spending were favorable in general. Most Districts reported that holiday retail sales were up noticeably over last year’s season, with New York and Dallas describing sales as ‘brisk’ and ‘robust,’ respectively. Consumer spending and confidence generally were characterized as firmer than in recent reporting periods, although Kansas City reported that spending softened... Reports from most Districts pointed to solid gains or high levels of travel and tourist activity, with pickups evident in both the business and leisure segments.”

Manufacturing: “ Manufacturing activity expanded in most Districts, generally continuing its steady overall expansion or, in the case of Atlanta, reversing a slowdown in prior periods... The strongest reports came from subsectors such as heavy equipment manufacturing and steel, for which demand has been boosted by robust growth in the energy, agricultural, and auto manufacturing sectors. Reports from Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis confirmed vibrant activity for auto manufacturers, primarily for domestic makes. By contrast, demand remained somewhat weak for firms in housing-related subsectors, such as a door manufacturer in the Richmond District, furniture manufacturers there and in the St. Louis and San Francisco Districts, and makers of lumber and wood products in the San Francisco District.”

Real estate: “ Activity in residential real estate markets largely held steady at very low levels, with the exception of further increases in the construction of multifamily residences. The pace of single-family home sales remained quite sluggish throughout the country, although the Dallas District reported a modest increase over the prior reporting period.”

Bank lending: “ Lending activity edged up overall, primarily due to increased loan demand by businesses. Most Districts that commented on lending activity indicated little or no change in overall loan demand, but the remaining Districts identified increases rather than decreases... Lending standards were largely unchanged across all lending categories. However, New York reported slight tightening for commercial and industrial loans.”

Agriculture and natural resources: “ Demand for agricultural products was strong during the reporting period, but growing conditions and input prices were mixed... Demand and extraction activity rose further for producers of natural resource products. Energy extraction has been on the upswing. Atlanta reported that companies have been expanding their workforces and increasing their production capacity and exploration plans in the Gulf of Mexico. Minneapolis and Kansas City reported that oil and gas exploration and extraction activity were well above their levels from twelve months earlier, and Dallas noted that a high level of activity is expected to resume in early 2012 following a year-end seasonal lull. Minneapolis and San Francisco reported expansion of mining capacity and activity for a range of industrial and precious metals.”

Inflation: “ Upward price pressures and price increases were very limited during the reporting period. Reports from various Districts, including Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago, indicated that upward price pressures from rising commodity and input prices have eased substantially, with Boston noting that ‘even food prices have ceased rising.’”

Wages: “ Wage pressures remained modest overall. The combination of limited permanent hiring in most sectors and numerous active job seekers has continued to keep a lid on general wage increases. However, reports from a few Districts highlighted significant supply constraints and in some cases large compensation increases for workers with specialized skills in selected sectors, including the energy sector in the Dallas District and the technology sector in the San Francisco District. On a related note, Minneapolis reported that employers have increased relocation pay for employees willing to settle in parts of that District where worker availability is limited. Increases in the costs of employee health benefits continued to put significant upward pressure on overall compensation costs, although some employers in the Philadelphia District reported significant rollbacks from past increases.”

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