The Beige Book, a summation of the overall level and trend of economic activity across the country, was released earlier this afternoon by the Federal Reserve. This compilation is used by the U.S. central bank to help it formulate monetary policy at its next Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
Essentially, the Beige Book intoned that the domestic economy expanded modestly in June and early July. However, it also was acknowledged that employment growth was becoming more subdued across parts of the country.
The survey additionally said that three of the 12 Fed Districts--New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland--reported weaker growth. A fourth--Richmond--affirmed that economic activity was mixed.
On a more uniformly positive note, each of the 12 Fed Districts indicated that the housing market, heretofore the weak link in the aggregate economic chain, was scoring gains across the country. That overall uptick would seem to be consistent with data issued the past two days. To wit, yesterday, a survey by builders was issued, which indicated that confidence in the construction sector had surged in July, climbing to its highest level since March of 2007. Then, this morning, the Commerce Department noted that housing starts had risen to their highest level since October of 2008--a span of nearly four years. Additionally, according to the Beige Book, rental markets were strengthening, as recent anecdotal evidence in New York City, where the rental market is huge, would attest.
Elsewhere, the report affirmed that retail sales had increased slightly in all reporting Districts other than Boston and Cleveland, where sales were flat, and in New York, where they had softened. Also, manufacturing activity continued to expand slowly in most Districts, although several Districts reported some softening in orders. Manufacturing has been mixed in this country, falling according to the Institute for Supply Management in June, but gaining in a report on industrial production issued yesterday by the Commerce Department.
Finally, demand for loans, particularly those tied to real estate, grew modestly in the latest survey. All told, the Beige Book suggested sufficient strength to probably encourage the Federal Reserve to not undertake any major new stimulus programs, but not enough strength to take future efforts completely off of the table.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.