Fed Beige Book Supports Cautious Optimism
This from today’s Fed Beige Book survey:
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that economic activity continued to expand moderately from November through December. Conditions were said to be improving in the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond Districts. Activity increased modestly to moderately in the Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts. The economy of the Minneapolis District "continued its moderate recovery," while that of the San Francisco District "firmed further" in the reporting period leading up to the close of 2010. Conditions were generally said to be better in Districts’ manufacturing, retail, and nonfinancial services sectors than in financial services or real estate.
So, we are seeing a modest improvement across all Fed districts. Here are the Beige Book quotes on specific economic sectors:
Contacts in the manufacturing sector in all Districts reported that activity continued to recover, with the Richmond and Chicago Districts citing especially solid gains in orders.
Residential real estate markets remained weak across all Districts. Commercial construction was described as subdued or slow, while commercial leasing activity reportedly increased in the Richmond, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City Districts.
Most District reports cited comments by both retailers and manufacturers that costs were rising, but indicated that competitive pressures had led to only modest pass-through into final prices.
Labor markets appeared to be firming somewhat in most Districts, as some modest hiring beyond replacement was said to have occurred and/or was planned in a variety of sectors. At the same time, however, upward pressure on wages was reportedly very limited.
Reports on credit activity were mixed across Federal Reserve Districts. Overall, loan demand was reported as stable in San Francisco, mixed in New York, steady to slightly softer in Kansas City, weaker in St. Louis and Dallas, and slowly improving in Philadelphia and Richmond.
Bottom Line: A modest recovery is occurring in the US with the labour market finally picking up. Manufacturing is back on track. Wholesale price inflation and margin pressure is starting to be a concern but wage inflation remains low. Credit growth is not firing on all cylinders.