Fed Beige Book: Optimism for Growth, Concern Over Disruptions Both Rising

Review of the most recent economic growth conditions in the 12 Federal Reserve districts and the outlooks for them appear to both continue to grow, slowly, but not without some significant shades of gray.

The Fed’s latest Beige Book regional conditions roundup found only moderate improvement to the economy; but it was an improvement characterized as “widespread across sectors.” Perhaps the most enthused about overall recent growth and near-term prospects were contacts in the Kansas City district.

The Beige Book noted manufacturing continued to lead the way for the rest of the economy with the most steady improvement and, long-absent evidence of increased hiring. Ten of the 12 district (excluding mixed results in the Boston and Richmond districts) demonstrated “robust” manufacturing sector activity, with New York performing exceptionally well. There was even talk of improvements in the long-battered commercial real estate sector, with more than half of the districts noting reasons for an optimistic view.

Granted, there were plenty of worrisome signs in the latest Beige Book roundup, which tracked a period from mid-to-late February through early April. Chief concerns among Fed contacts were the possibility of significant sales and production disruptions stemming from the Japan disasters, elevated commodity prices and the impact of a still dragging resident real estate sector on household wealth/consumer confidence.

(Note: for an extended version of this story, featuring a region-by-region breakdown of the Fed’s 12 Beige Book districts, click here.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer

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