The Federal Reserve has released its Beige Book for October. Most investors and economists consider this a government report, but the reality is that this is a business survey conducted by Federal Reserve employees in each of the 12 districts around the United States. These are comments made by business leaders and other contacts rather than comments made by Federal Reserve officials themselves.
There are some basic observations here that should point to where the basic views are looking now. First is that the cut-off date was from data collected before October 7. The term “mixed” appeared 42 times in describing aspects of the economy. The term “modest” appears 61 times, and the term “moderate” appeared 69 times.
24/7 Wall St. wanted to take 14 summary points to consider. These would be to describe an overall picture, looking for a modest economy with higher prices ahead.
- GENERAL ECONOMY: national economic activity continued to expand during the reporting period from late August to early October — but at a modest or moderate pace.
- GENERAL OUTLOOK: Outlooks were mostly positive, with growth expected to continue at a slight to moderate pace in several Districts.
- LABOR/JOBS: Labor market conditions remained tight, and employers are noting that modest employment and wage growth were seen.
- PRICES/INFLATION: Most Districts showed that input costs and output prices were fairly flat, but prices increased slightly. Sorry, but that means higher.
- MANUFACTURING: Manufacturing activity was mixed.
- STRONG DOLLAR: The strong U.S. dollar has continued to mute exports of manufactured goods.
- RETAIL: Most regions saw an uptick in retail spending — and the general outlook is for modest growth in the months ahead.
- CAR & TRAVEL: Auto sales and tourism varied around the nation.
- SERVICES: The demand for nonfinancial services generally increased.
- PORTS & TRANSPORTS: Port traffic and e-commerce related activity rose in the districts which comment on that — but reports on other transportation services mostly indicated weakness.
- REAL ESTATE: Residential construction and real estate activity expanded further, but low home inventories continued to constrain sales in some districts. Home price appreciation continued at a modest pace. Commercial real estate activity and construction improved.
- LOAN DEMAND: Demand for business and consumer loans increased, aside from some seasonal slowing, and credit quality remained strong or improved.
- FARMING: Agricultural conditions were mixed, as low commodity prices pressured farm revenues despite generally strong crop yields.
- ENERGY: Signs of stabilization were seen in the oil and natural gas sector, but reports of coal production were mixed.