Central Banks

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 14:00

TEXT: Federal Reserve Beige Book Summary Section


WASHINGTON (MNI) - The following is the text of the summary section of the Federal Reserve's summary of economic conditions report, or Beige Book, released Wednesday:

Overall Economic Activity

Ecconomic activity generally continued to expand modestly in the final six weeks of 2019. The Dallas and Richmond Districts noted above-average growth, while Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City reported sub-par growth. Consumer spending grew at a modest to moderate pace, with a number of Districts noting some pickup from the prior reporting period. On balance, holiday sales were said to be solid, with several Districts noting the growing importance of online shopping. Vehicle sales generally expanded moderately, though a handful of Districts reported flat sales. Tourism was mixed, with growth reported in the eastern seaboard Districts but activity little changed in the Midwest and West. Manufacturing activity was essentially flat in most Districts, as in the previous report. Business in nonfinancial services was mixed but, on balance, growing modestly. Transportation activity was also mixed across Districts, with a majority reporting flat to weaker activity. Banks mostly characterized loan volume as steady to expanding moderately. Home sales trends varied widely across Districts but were flat overall, while residential rental markets strengthened. Some Districts pointed to low inventories as restraining home sales. New residential construction expanded modestly. Commercial real estate activity varied substantially across Districts. Agricultural conditions were little changed, as was activity in the energy sector. In many Districts, tariffs and trade uncertainty continued to weigh on some businesses. Expectations for the near-term outlook remained modestly favorable across the nation.

Employment and Wages

Employment was steady to rising modestly in most Districts, while labor markets remained tight throughout the nation. Most Districts cited widespread labor shortages as a factor constraining job growth, and, in a few cases, business expansion. A few Districts noted brisk demand for professional, technical, and managerial workers. A number of Districts reported job cuts or reduced hiring among manufacturers, and there were scattered reports of job cuts in the transportation and energy sectors. Wage growth was characterized as modest or moderate in most Districtssimilar to the prior reporting periodand there were scattered reports of wage increases from year-end hikes in minimum wages. A few Districts also noted the use of benefits, incentives, training programs, and automation to reduce vacancies.

Prices

Prices continued to rise at a modest pace during the reporting period, as did input costs. A number of Districts reported that retail selling prices rose at a slightly faster, but still subdued, pace. A few Districts indicated that some businesses were passing along tariff costs to consumersmostly in retail but also in construction. Some Districts noted that restaurants were being pressured by rising food prices. There were scattered reports of declining prices in some manufacturing industries, as well as in the energy sector. Those Districts reporting on price expectations indicated that prices were expected to continue to rise in the months ahead.

* Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York based on information collected on or before January 6, 2020.

** MNI Washington Bureau (202) 371-2121

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