September 8th, 2011
Econintersect: The consolidated economic report from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts (Biege Book) says economic activity is expanding at a "modest pace". For the December 2007 recession, here is the lead up summary words from the Beige Books:
- 28Nov2007 - "expanding"
- 16Jan2008 - "increasing moderately"
- 05Mar2008 - "growth slowed"
- 16Apr2008 - "weakened"
For the March 2001 recession which ended in November 2001, here are the Beige Book summary words:
- 17Jan2001 - "economic growth slowed"
- 07Mar2001 - "sluggish to modest economic growth"
- 02May2001 - "slow pace of economic activity"
- 13Jun2001 - "little changed or decelerating"
- 08Aug2001 - "slow growth or lateral movement"
- 19Sep2001 - "sluggish"
- 24Oct2001 - "weak economic activity"
- 28Nov2001 - "remained soft"
- 16Jan2002 - "remained weak"
So the question is what is "a modest pace" - and are we in a recession? It appears clues are difficult to spot using the Beige Book. The summary for the 07Sep2011 release reads as follows:
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity continued to expand at a modest pace, though some Districts noted mixed or weakening activity. The St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts all reported either modest or slight expansion. Atlanta said activity continued to expand at a very subdued pace, while Cleveland reported slow growth and New York indicated growth remained sluggish. Economic activity expanded more slowly in the Chicago District and slowed in the Richmond District. Business activity in the Boston and Philadelphia Districts was characterized as mixed, with Philadelphia adding that activity was somewhat weaker overall. Several Districts also indicated that recent stock market volatility and increased economic uncertainty had led many contacts to downgrade or become more cautious about their near-term outlooks.
Consumer spending increased slightly in most Districts since the last survey, but non-auto retail sales were flat or down in several Districts. Although poor weather dampened growth in some areas, tourist activity remained solid in most Districts. The demand for services was generally positive throughout the nation, but one region said conditions were deteriorating. Of the five Districts reporting on transportation, three said conditions were mostly positive, while the other two reported activity as flat or slightly below expectations. Manufacturing conditions were mixed across the country, but the pace of activity slowed in many Districts. Residential real estate markets remained weak overall with only a few slight improvements in some Districts. Most Districts characterized commercial real estate and construction activity as weak or little changed, but improvements were noted in several areas. Loan demand remained stable or slightly weaker, and lending standards were largely unchanged with an improvement in loan quality. Harsh summer weather negatively affected agricultural activity, although recent rains in several Districts provided some relief. Districts reporting on energy activity said it generally expanded, with further growth expected.
Price pressures edged lower, although input costs continued to increase in some industries and retail prices rose in several Districts. Labor markets were generally stable, although some Districts reported modest employment growth. Wage pressures were generally minimal outside of some upward movement for skilled positions.
Source: Federal Reserve