Econintersect: Reports from the twelve USA Federal Reserve Districts indicated that overall economic activity continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace in January and early February 2011. These “reports” are anecdotal and hearsay information, constituting what is known as “The Beige Book.”
The summary continued that both Kansas City and San Francisco noted that their economies expanded further.Boston and Philadelphia cited conditions as improving. New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, and St. Louis described activity as modestly improving, while Minneapolis and Dallas experienced moderate growth. Chicago reported that although there was an increase in activity, it was at a pace not quite as strong as during the previous reporting period.
Retail sales increased in all Districts, except Richmond and Atlanta, although Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Kansas City noted that severe snowstorms had a negative impact on merchant activity. Retail inventory levels were described as desirable in New York, Cleveland, Dallas, and San Francisco. Tourism improved in Richmond, Atlanta, and San Francisco, while New York and Kansas City noted a slowdown in activity as hotel occupancy rates declined. Some Districts reported a slight increase in the level of residential real estate activity, although all Districts maintained that the overall level of home sales and construction remained low. Several Districts indicated improvements in commercial real estate sales and leasing activity, including Boston, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco. Most reports characterized nonresidential construction as weak.
All Districts, except St. Louis, experienced solid growth in manufacturing production, and new orders improved for Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, and San Francisco. Most regions observed an increase in nonfinancial services. Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco reported that sales advanced for services related to information technology, while Kansas City noted softer sales of IT services.
Changes in loan demand were mixed across Districts, with Richmond, Dallas, and San Francisco experiencing increased loan demand and Kansas City noting a decrease. Lending standards remained tight across most Districts. Labor markets modestly improved across the country. Boston, Richmond, and Chicago reported more permanent job placements occurring in the market, while Atlanta businesses reported a continued preference for hiring temporary workers rather than permanent workers. Several Districts described an increase in demand for staffing services, especially for high-skilled IT positions. Adverse weather conditions continued to hamper agricultural production in many Districts, but strong prices helped producers of cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, poultry, hogs and cattle. Energy production expanded or remained stable, according to reporting Districts.
Non-wage input costs increased for manufacturers and retailers in most Districts. Manufacturers, in a number of Districts reported having greater ability to pass through higher input costs to customers. Retailers in some Districts mentioned they had implemented price increases or were anticipating such action in the next few months. Homebuilders in Cleveland and Atlanta had limited ability to pass through cost increases to buyers. Most reporting Districts noted continued strong agricultural commodity prices. Wage pressures remained minimal across all Districts; although Philadelphia, Dallas, and San Francisco noted that most wage increases were for workers with specialized skills.