The Federal Reserve’s periodical roundup of economic conditions in each of its 12 districts throughout the nation finds that, in most areas, growth is continuing but at a notably weaker pace than the same time last year. Additionally, the word of the day appears to be “uncertainty.”
The Fed’s Beige Book roundup finds growth best characterized as “modest or slight,” with a decidedly slower pace than in recent months or early fall 2010. Though not every industry sector or district is reporting bad news, conditions are not nearly as positive as had been expected because of long-time “expert” predictions that, by this point, the economic recovery would be in or near full-swing.
Consumer spending, overall, was up for the recent six-week period ending in early/mid-October. However, much of that was driven by auto sales and tourism increases. Businesses also increased spending in most districts, with areas of construction and mining equipment as well as auto-related products setting the pace. Yet, in a continuation of the good news-bad news theme, Fed contacts noted particular “restraint in hiring and capital spending plans:”
Manufacturing, long the proverbial bread-winner among all industries during the slow recovery period, showed improvement from the declines reported in the last two Beige Book periods. Again, the auto producers performed best.
On the credit front, a lengthy period of small improvements in credit conditions are ceding in some areas for anyone not in the very top tier of borrowing. That said, demand remains stunted anyway, especially in districts like Chicago and Kansas City. Also important to those two districts were declines in the agriculture sector. While yields have not fallen to shortage level, almost unilaterally, yields are noticeably down for this time one year ago. Part of this is fallout from unpredictable and/or uncooperative weather earlier in the year, especially in the central-south part of the country.
Real estate, unsurprisingly, was changed little as activity remains at low, weak levels.
Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer