U.S. Fed's Beige Book Reports Economic Conditions Weakened Since February
Economic conditions across the United States have slowed since February, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book noted, as nine of the 12 districts report slowing economic activity.
The report noted consumer spending is "softening" across much of the U.S. while residential construction is "generally anemic."
"Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve districts indicate that economic conditions have weakened since the last report," the Beige Book reads, noting that nine districts reported a slowing in the pace of economic activity, while the remaining three - Boston, Cleveland, and Richmond - described activity as mixed or steady.
Districts reported year-over-year declines in retail and/or auto sales, while tourism, in contrast, was generally described as strong, with a number of districts noting particular strength in foreign visitors. Reports on non-financial services varied by district: demand for transportation services was generally characterized as weak, while business and health services continued to expand. Other service industries were said to be mixed.
Most districts reported little change in retail price inflation, though Richmond and San Francisco noted some moderation. Most business contacts reported that wages were unchanged or were increasing moderately in all districts.
Many districts reported slowing consumer loan demand and economic activity. The report noted the input cost gains were widespread while selling prices were less so.
Many districts did report generally strong exports.
"Despite some variation across districts, employment levels appeared to be little changed, on balance, from recent months," the report noted.
Some weakening in the job market was reported in the New York, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis districts. Cleveland reported flat employment levels while Richmond indicated mixed trends. Boston and Kansas City indicated modest increases in employment, with some deceleration indicated in the latter. Firms in the Philadelphia, Atlanta and Minneapolis districts reported layoffs, reductions in work hours or hiring freezes in response to current or expected slowing in economic activity.
The Beige Book covers the period through April 7.
By Stephen Huebl and edited by Nancy Girgis