July Fed Beige Book Round Up

the beige book

Periodically, each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its geographic district.

Banks take into consideration the outlook of regional Fed bank directors, interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources.

This information comes out 8 times per year in a compilation report dubbed the "Beige Book" - it's essentially a summary of economic activity in the 12 Fed bank districts as prepared by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.

Today (Wednesday), the Federal Reserve released its latest.

Therein, manufacturing reportedly expanded in most districts.

Consumer spending, auto sales, transportation, commercial real estate, and banking has improved.

Hiring activity modestly improved, but three districts noted businesses' reluctance to hire permanent workers. We're likely seeing the effects of Obamacare.

Notably, housing demand and construction activity increased at a moderate to strong pace in all districts.

Meanwhile, tourism and agricultural conditions seemed bogged down by bad weather.

In sum, overall economic activity has reportedly continued to increase at a modest pace since the last Beige Book, released on June 5.

Sounds good, but how about some specifics?

Here are some interesting economic tidbits I came across while perusing July's Beige Book, broken down by district:

First District - Boston:

A gun manufacturer in Connecticut announced plans to relocate to South Carolina in response to the state's recent passage of stricter gun-control laws. With it, the manufacturer takes jobs out of the state.

Other gun manufacturers in the state are likely to follow suit in the coming months.

Connecticut upping its gun control regulations is tied to the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary incident last December.

Second District - New York:

An employment agency reported increased difficulty in finding candidates with specific skill sets - particularly in technology.

And good news: the agency finds that companies are becoming less reluctant to negotiate salaries.

It describes this as the best year for college graduates since 2008.

Third District - Philadelphia:

Retailers were "dampened by rainy weather" since the last Beige Book.

"...Excessive rain in June kept still more people away from stores, while some showed up just to 'hang out' at the mall."

On the other hand, auto dealers described sales as "on fire" in the 1st couple weeks in June. The dealers reportedly attribute the better sales to the climate, in part. What else is there to do besides checking out new cars in the rain?

It seems - at least in terms of weather in the 3rd District - that where one door closes, another opens.

Seventh District - Chicago:

A few Fed contacts reported increases in merger and acquisitions activity, but then saw deals were being delayed by uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook.

Inventory investment was in the same boat.

Ninth District - Minneapolis:

In May, Minnesota saw federal government employment reach its lowest level in over 20 years. State government was at its lowest level since 2008.

Eleventh District - Dallas:

Outlook for the 3rd quarter in retail sales is optimistic, but there continues to be worry over rising costs, particularly from Obamacare.

Twelfth District - San Francisco:

"...Firms in various industries continued to compete vigorously for a limited pool of qualified workers to fill certain technical positions, spurring significant wage growth for occupations such as software developers."

Thanks, Silicon Valley!

Interested in more than just our nation's own economic forecast? Check out Money Morning's Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald as he discusses China's economic growth forecast and how it affects the U.S. on "Varney & Co." here...

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