The Fed Beige Book is out, and not surprisingly the report is mixed. In four markets, there was noticeable softening. In two there was no change, and in other modest growth.
Bottom line: This is what you should have expected, if you’d been paying attention to the latest data.
Economic activity has continued to increase, on balance, since the previous survey, although the Cleveland and Kansas City Districts reported that the level of economic activity generally held steady. Among those Districts reporting improvements in economic activity, a number of them noted that the increases were modest, and two Districts, Atlanta and Chicago, said that the pace of economic activity had slowed recently.
Manufacturing activity continued to expand in most Districts, although several Districts reported that activity had slowed or leveled off during the reporting period. Districts also noted improved conditions in the services sector. The five Districts reporting on transportation noted increased activity. Tourism activity also increased across the Districts, although the Atlanta District noted concerns about decreased leisure travel to the Gulf Coast. Retail sales reports generally indicated a continued rise in spending, and several Districts noted that necessities continued to be strong sellers, while big-ticket items moved more slowly.
However, most Districts that reported on auto sales noted declines in recent weeks. Activity in residential real estate markets was sluggish in most Districts after the expiration of the April 30 deadline for the homebuyer tax credit. Commercial real estate markets, especially construction, remained weak. Banking conditions varied across the Districts, with some Districts noting soft or decreased overall loan demand; credit standards remained tight in most reporting Districts.
Recent rains had mixed effects on crop conditions, while activity in the natural resources sector increased. Overall labour market conditions improved modestly across the Districts, with several reports of temporary hiring. Consumer prices of goods and services held steady in most reporting Districts. Input prices also held largely steady, with only a few reports of cost increases. Wage pressures continued to be contained on the whole.
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