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The Federal Reserve Beige Book Economic Summary

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For a detailed understanding of how the U.S. economy is performing review the Federal Reserve Beige Book.

Eight times a year the Beige Book is published by the United States Federal Reserve Board. The report is based upon information on current economic conditions gathered by the twelve Federal Reserve Banks that include interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and others. Unlike economic activity reported by the media the Beige Book presents the information in a detailed and clinical manner.

The information can be accessed from the Full Report, a Summary or an individual report for each of the twelve Federal Reserve Regions. This information is on the same link.

Following are some excerpts from the most recent Beige Book published on November 28:

“Economic activity expanded at a measured pace in recent weeks, according to reports from contacts in the twelve Federal Reserve Districts. Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco grew at a modest pace, while St. Louis and Minneapolis indicated a somewhat stronger increase in activity. In contrast, Boston reported a slower rate of growth. Weaker conditions in New York were attributed to widespread disruptions at the end of October and into November caused by Hurricane Sandy. Philadelphia reported general weakness that was exacerbated by the hurricane.”

“Several Districts reported slight gains in residential and commercial real estate. Travel and tourism varied by District; for example, Minneapolis contacts marked levels of activity above a year ago, and tourism fell in the Kansas City District. Non-financial services also differed among Districts, with Philadelphia businesses indicating softer demand, while firms in other Districts reported pockets of robust demand for professional, scientific, and technical services. In transportation, reports were, again, mixed. In addition, hurricane disruptions slowed freight shipments in some Districts, while simultaneously boosting demand for shipments of emergency supplies. In banking and financial services, higher demand for home mortgage loans and auto loans increased consumer lending in some Districts, although small business loan demand was generally described as weaker to only moderately higher. Credit quality improved on net.”

Consumer Spending and Tourism

Consumer spending increased at a moderate pace in most Districts in recent weeks, with mixed reports from Dallas. In New York, sales were ahead of plan prior to Hurricane Sandy, and merchants expect to recoup sales lost during the storm as residents replace destroyed or damaged property. Philadelphia contacts reported slower growth since the last report. Apparel sales picked up in Boston, and Richmond indicated that home and garden stores reported stronger sales ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Durable goods sales varied across Districts. For example, Boston and Chicago noted an improvement in furniture, while sales in that category declined in Cleveland. Chicago reported flattening in electronics sales, whereas San Francisco contacts reported significant sales gains for consumer technology products.

Real Estate and Construction

Overall, markets for single-family homes continued to improve across most Districts with the exception of Boston and Philadelphia. Residential real estate markets in the New York District were mixed but generally firm prior to the storm. Selling prices were steady or rising. Boston, New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Dallas noted declining or tight inventories. The Cleveland District indicated that the number of single-family housing starts had increased since our last report and from a year ago; most sales contracts were in higher price-point categories. Similarly, Richmond noted more residential work in the high-end home category for the first time in three years, and builders cited significant pent-up demand in the first-time buyer segment. Atlanta indicated that existing home sales were up slightly compared to a year ago and reported that investors were more active in Florida than in the rest of the District. In Chicago, residential construction increased at a slow but steady pace in October and early Dallas noted that single-family housing activity remained strong, with both new and existing home sales activity increasing. San Francisco reported that home demand continued to strengthen and that home sales continued to grow on a sustained basis in most areas, spurring new home construction.

Employment, Wages, and Prices

Modest improvements in hiring activity were reported by most Districts. Labor markets were generally described as improving modestly by Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dallas. Staffing firms, according to Boston and Cleveland, experienced improved business conditions.

© 2012 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC

Ed Teixeira is the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He can be reached at franchiseknowhow@gmail.com

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