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posted on 14 October 2015

September 2015 Beige Book: Economy Continues to Grow (But At a Slower Rate?)

The consolidated economic report from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts (Beige Book) "point to continued modest expansion in economic activity during the reporting period from mid-August through early October". The previous report said "economic activity continued expanding across most regions and sectors during the reporting period from July to mid-August". My interpretation is that the Fed is saying economic expansion marginally slowed.

Please see the end of this post for words the Federal Reserve uses when the economy is entering a recession.

This report is based on information collected on or before 05 October 2015. The summary for this 14 October 2015 release reads as follows:

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts point to continued modest expansion in economic activity during the reporting period from mid-August through early October. The pace of growth was characterized as modest in the New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis Districts, while the Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts described growth as moderate. Boston and Richmond reported that activity increased. Kansas City, on the other hand, noted a slight decline in economic activity. Compared with the previous report, the pace of growth is said to have slowed in the Richmond and Chicago Districts. A number of Districts cite the strong dollar as restraining manufacturing activity as well as tourism spending. Business contacts across the nation were generally optimistic about the near-term outlook.

Consumer spending grew moderately in the latest reporting period. Most Districts reported that non-auto sales grew at a modest or moderate rate, while vehicle sales generally grew more strongly; tourism across the nation was mixed. Nonfinancial services activity generally strengthened since the previous report, although freight transport activity weakened.

Manufacturing turned in a mixed but generally weaker performance during the latest reporting period, with a number of Districts noting adverse effects from the energy sector. Some strength was reported in the motor vehicles, aerospace, and transportation equipment industries, while metals industries were generally weaker--in part, due to the strong dollar.

Both the housing and commercial real estate markets improved since the last report. Home prices and sales volume increased in almost all regions, and a number of Districts noted relative strength in the market for lower or moderately priced homes. Both residential rental markets and commercial real estate markets were mostly stronger. Commercial and residential multi-family construction showed further strength; single-family construction activity was more mixed but did increase modestly.

Reports on the banking and finance sector were generally positive--lending activity increased, loan quality was steady to improved, and lending standards were little changed or somewhat easier.

Agricultural conditions were mixed. Growing conditions and farm output were solid in some Districts, but there were adverse effects from droughts in the south, as well as excessive rainfall in the Richmond and St. Louis Districts. Lower crop and livestock prices raised concerns that farm income may weaken. Activity in the energy industry weakened since the last report.

Labor markets tightened in most Districts, with some reports of labor shortages--particularly for skilled workers. Wage growth was mostly subdued, though there were scattered reports of increased wage pressures. Prices remained fairly stable across the nation, as most Districts reported that prices of both inputs and finished goods were little changed or up only slightly, though some Districts report declines for energy, as well as other inputs.

Click the "source" hyperlink below to read the full report.

The Beige Book is a summary of current economic conditions:

Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. An overall summary of the twelve district reports is prepared by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.

Fed's Words When Economy is entering a Recession

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"

Steven Hansen

Source: Federal Reserve

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