The Beige Book, an economic compilation of the nation's overall business conditions, which is prepared by the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, was released in the past hour. And, with little fanfare and few surprises, this summary indicated that all 12 of the Fed Districts observed that economic activity was still expanding.
On point, the pace of growth was characterized as moderate in seven of the Districts, and as modest in the remaining handful. Compared with the previous report, the pace of growth picked up in the Cleveland and St. Louis Districts, but slowed slightly in the Kansas City District.
Among the principal business categories covered in this economic summary, consumer spending had expanded in almost all Districts to varying degrees. Much of this gradual pickup in the consumer area was attributable to the better weather, although lingering wintry weather in the New York and Boston Districts continued to weigh on sales. Gains in economic activity also were noted in the auto market, in the services sector, and in manufacturing.
Residential real estate activity, however, was mixed across the country, with reports of low inventories constraining sales, especially in the Boston, New York, and Kansas City Districts. Residential construction also was mixed, with half the Districts seeing gains, but with some Districts noting weakness. In the nonresidential and commercial sectors, activity was generally steady to stronger. Also, overall lending activity was increasing across the nation.
Finally, labor market conditions had generally strengthened since the last Beige Book, with hiring activity steady to stronger across much of the country. In most Districts, however, wage increases have remained generally subdued. This is a very closely watched category, as the Labor Department will be out with its employment and unemployment results for May on Friday.
Looked at in its entirety, this report contained few surprises, and the assessment by the Fed is unlikely to force any immediate changes in Federal Reserve monetary policies. As such, we would expect the central bank to remain on a slow, but steady, path to end its asset purchase program late this year. The bigger question will then be just when does the bank opt to start the long-anticipated process of finally starting to raise interest rates.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.