Turning through the New Beige Book
Eight times a year, each of the 12 Reserve Banks 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. Results are published in the Beige Book on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors website approximately two weeks prior to each Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
Because the lead sentence often gives a broad view of economic conditions in that region, that first sentence of the national summary and each Bank's report often gets much attention. Here is a roundup of each report’s first sentence:
- National: Overall economic activity increased at a modest to moderate pace since the previous report across all Federal Reserve Districts except the Dallas District, which reported strong economic growth.
- Boston: First District business contacts generally report year-over-year increases in economic activity.
- New York: Economic activity in the Second District has continued to expand at a moderate pace since the last report.
- Philadelphia: After many months at a generally more modest pace of growth, aggregate business activity in the Third District has accelerated somewhat to a moderate pace of growth during this current Beige Book period.
- Cleveland: The economy in the Fourth District grew at a moderate pace since our last report.
- Richmond: Economic activity strengthened modestly across the District.
- Atlanta: On balance, Sixth District business conditions improved modestly in April and May.
- Chicago: Economic activity in the Seventh District again expanded at a modest pace in April and May.
- St. Louis: Economic activity in the Eighth District has expanded at a moderate pace since the previous report.
- Minneapolis: The Ninth District economy posted moderate growth.
- Kansas City: The Tenth District economy grew at a modest pace in late April and early May.
- Dallas: The Eleventh District economy expanded at a stronger pace over the past six weeks than in the previous reporting period.
- San Francisco: Economic activity in the Twelfth District expanded at a modest pace during the reporting period of early April through late May.
As you can see, almost all districts are experiencing the same level of economic activity.
Here are some notable highlights from the Atlanta Fed's portion of the Beige Book:
Consumer spending and tourism
- District retail contacts noted an improvement in consumer spending but were cautiously optimistic regarding their outlook. Automobile sales remained steady at high levels.
- Leisure and international travel continued to experience healthy demand, with several contacts reporting that activity exceeded expectations.
Real estate and construction
- District brokers reported that existing home sales remained ahead of last year’s level. Brokers continued to report that low home inventories were restraining sales. Existing home prices continued to rise on a year-over-year basis.
- District homebuilders reported that new home sales and construction activity were stronger than in our last report and from a year ago. Buyer traffic continued to increase, as well. Most contacts reported that new home inventories were below the year earlier level and prices have risen slightly.
- District commercial real estate contacts indicated that demand continued to improve from earlier in the year. Construction activity rose modestly again.
- District manufacturers continued to report expanding activity in April and May. Growth was driven by increases in new orders, production, and employment.
Banking and finance
- Overall demand for new loans remained weak.
- District payrolls grew at a mild pace since our last report.
Prices and wages
- Most firms continued to experience fairly stable input costs. Though most firms continued to report having little pricing power, retailers indicated that profit margins continued to improve since the beginning of the year as they have been able to successfully contain costs.
The next Beige Book will be published July 17.
By Shalini Patel, an economic policy analysis specialist in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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