The U.S. economy, under selective pressure from a slumbering industrial sector, uneven consumer spending, and inadequate job growth, continues to press irregularly forward, with the aggregate picture noting that the nation is experiencing reasonable levels of economic growth.
That conclusion can be gleaned from the latest Beige Book summation of business activity across the country, as compiled by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Specifically, the lead bank reported earlier this afternoon that "overall economic activity increased at a modest to moderate pace since the previous report across all Federal Reserve Districts except the Dallas District, which reported strong economic growth."
As to sectors, manufacturing activity expanded in most Districts, but was steady in the New York locale. On the other hand, orders and shipments were falling in the Philadelphia District. The Richmond District, meantime, reported that manufacturing activity had softened since the previous report, issued some six weeks ago.
At the same time, consumer spending was increasing in most Districts, with the improvement ranging from slight to moderate. That would seem to be consistent with our contention, noted above, that such activity was uneven, in the main. Retail spending was also uneven across most Districts, but strength was more prevalent within the auto sector, where sales picked up last month according to an industry report issued earlier this week.
Meanwhile, gains were also noted in nonfinancial services, as well as in real estate and construction, with the strength in these latter two categories being gauged to be moderate to strong.
Finally, hiring increased at a measured pace in several Districts, with some areas noting difficulty finding qualified workers. However, wage pressures remained contained overall, although some Districts did report some pressures in selected areas. Taken as a whole, this was not a surprising report, and would seem consistent with the anecdotal data being issued across a number of key industries and sectors. The report also is not a game changer for the Fed, in our view, with this Friday's report on non-farm payrolls and the unemployment rate being more critical to upcoming central bank monetary policies. At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.