The Federal Reserve Beige Book is a commentary on current economic conditions. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. An overall summary of the twelve district reports is prepared and presented eight times a year. Here is an excerpt from the current release, prepared for distribution on December 3rd:
Overall economic activity continued to weaken across almost all of the Federal Reserve Districts since the previous reporting period. Most Districts noted reduced or low activity across a wide range of industries, although a few Districts noted some exceptions in some sectors.
District reports indicate that retail sales were generally weak, particularly during the holiday season. A majority of Districts noted deep discounting during the holiday sales season. Vehicle sales were also weak or down overall in the Districts reporting on them. Manufacturing activity decreased in most Districts. Declines were noted in a wide range of manufacturing industries, with a few exceptions. Services sector activity generally declined across the Districts, with exceptions in some sectors of the Boston, Richmond, and Chicago Districts. Additionally, several Districts noted weaker conditions in transportation services and slow or decreased demand in tourism activity. Conditions in residential real estate markets continued to worsen in most Districts. Reduced home sales, lower prices, or decreases in construction activity were noted in many Districts. Commercial real estate markets deteriorated in most Districts, with weakening construction noted in several Districts. Overall lending activity declined in several Districts, with tight or tightening lending conditions reported in most Districts. Credit quality remained a concern in several Districts. Agricultural conditions were mixed in response to varying weather conditions across the Districts. Mining and energy production activity generally declined since the previous report.
Most Districts reported a general weakening of labor market conditions. Lower energy prices were noted in many of the Districts, and, except for the Richmond District, which mentioned higher prices for raw materials, most reporting Districts noted declining input prices. Wage pressures remained largely contained, and some Districts reported pay freezes or reductions in compensation.
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