Beige Book: Southeast, U.S. Exhibiting Similar Trends
The Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District—commonly known as the Beige Book—is a report is published by the Federal Reserve eight times a year. Each Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector.
Below is a comparison of the national summary and the Atlanta Fed's portion of the report, which was released on April 17:
Overall economic conditions
- National: Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts suggest overall economic activity expanded at a moderate pace during the reporting period from late February to early April.
- Atlanta: Sixth District business contacts reported that economic activity continued to advance at a modest pace.
- National: Outlooks among respondents remained optimistic across sectors and Districts, with growth mostly expected to continue at the same or a slightly improved pace.
- Atlanta: Reports across sectors were generally positive, and expectations for the coming months remained optimistic.
- National: Consumer spending grew modestly, and firms in some Districts cited higher gasoline prices, expiration of the payroll tax cut, and winter weather as factors restraining sales growth.
- Atlanta: Retail reports were mixed, with some retailers citing improved sales and others feeling the pinch from a constrained consumer.
- National: Travel and tourism expanded across most reporting Districts, boosted by both business and leisure travel.
- Atlanta: Hospitality contacts reported healthy activity in both leisure and business travel.
- National: Most Districts said residential and commercial real estate improved markedly since the last report. Home prices were rising in many areas of the country.
- Atlanta: Homebuilders and brokers experienced further improvements in sales and prices of new and existing homes, and inventories continued to decline on a year-over-year basis. Commercial contractors noted a strong year to date as construction levels improved from late last year.
- National: Most Districts noted increases in manufacturing activity since the previous report.
- Atlanta: Overall, manufacturing activity remained positive as new orders and production increased.
- National: Loan demand was steady to slightly up in most Districts.
- Atlanta: Loan demand remained steady, according to bankers.
- National: Employment conditions remained unchanged or improved somewhat.
- Atlanta: Payrolls continued to grow at a tepid pace as firms remained reluctant in hiring, in part because of uncertainty over fiscal policy and health care reform.
- National: Aside from reports of increases in home prices and residential construction materials, price pressures remained mostly subdued across Districts.
- Atlanta: Prices remained stable and most firms continued to report having relatively little pricing power.
Based on these comparisons, the southeastern economy appears to exhibit trends similar to the rest of the nation.
The next Beige Book will be published June 5.
By Shalini Patel, an economic policy analysis specialist in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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