At 2:00 P.M. (EDT) the Federal Reserve released its Beige Book summation of economic conditions for the month of April. The report—a collection of anecdotal information on business activity from contacts nationwide—showed that most of the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts have witnessed “modest to moderate” growth in the last month.
The Beige Book release comes on the heels of several encouraging economic reports since the beginning of the month, including data on manufacturing and nonmanufacturing activity, industrial production, retail sales, and jobs creation. The Beige Book findings also do nothing to contradict our current stance that the U.S. economy is strengthening and that growth will probably accelerate in the coming quarters, especially with the severe winter weather that blanketed much of the country during the first two-plus months of 2014 in the rearview mirror. To this end, the report indicated that business activity in both New York and Philadelphia—two very important U.S. districts—had rebounded from weather-related slowdowns earlier this year.
It was also encouraging to see that business activity in the sectors that are vital to the nation’s economic health firmed up since a sluggish start to the year. Manufacturing activity improved in most districts, while consumer spending increase in the majority of the Federal Reserve’s districts since the last Beige Book release. The latter uptick is heartening, as the consumer accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s economic output. The only thing that was a bit discouraging were the mixed reports on the housing market.
All in all, the Beige Book report did not produce any surprises and should not alter the lead bank’s current plan to gradually taper its monthly bond-buying program. The Federal Reserve, which has a dual mandate to foster employment and keep prices stable, has to be encouraged that prices were generally stable or slightly higher. This should give it the ammunition to keep short-term lending rates at historical lows in its effort to promote job growth.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.