The Federal Reserve has, within the past hour, issued its latest Beige Book summation of the course of the economy across the United States. And, as for much of this year, the report again showed modest-to-moderate growth.
However, the positives easily overwhelmed the negatives in the report, with notable improvement suggested in manufacturing activity, retail spending, auto demand, consumer outlays, and business activity. In short, there were few negatives of note in this issuance.
The reports cover the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, and the period measured was from early October to mid-November. Activity in New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and the Dallas Districts grew at a moderate pace, while the Districts of Philadelphia, Chicago, Kansas City, and San Francisco cited modest growth. Boston reported that economic activity had continued to expand.
As noted, manufacturing activity expanded anew, with gains noted in both the motor-vehicle and high-technology industries. Manufacturers in many Districts, moreover, expressed optimism about near-term prospects. In addition to this sector and a better tone in the auto and retailing markets, tourism also was up in most Districts. Although, here, the earlier government shutdown had a negative impact across some regions. Finally, hiring showed either a modest increase or was unchanged across the 12 Districts.
Looked at as a whole, this was a very positive report, but one, together with other issuances--notably releases on private-sector payroll growth, manufacturing, non-manufacturing new home sales, building permits, and retailing activity--which suggest that any quarter-to-quarter retracement, in the current stanza will be modest. Third-quarter growth, initially estimated at 2.8%, is set to be revised tomorrow morning, with consensus expectations pointing to a gain of 3.2%. Our sense is that current-period GDP growth will be 2.2%-2.5%.
Importantly, this economic compilation, along with Friday's scheduled release on non-farm payrolls and the unemployment rate from the Labor Department, will be closely scrutinized by the Federal Reserve, which is due to hold its next FOMC meeting on December 17th and 18th, amidst growing signs that the bank will use that opportunity to slightly taper its very popular bond-buying program.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.