Any Green Shoots in the Beige Book?
Posted by Larry Doyle on June 10, 2009 4:15 PM |
The Federal reserve released its Beige Book a short while ago. Let’s see if we encounter any “green shoots.”
From the Federal Reserve’s report:
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve District Banks indicate that economic conditions remained weak or deteriorated further during the period from mid-April through May. However, five of the Districts noted that the downward trend is showing signs of moderating. Further, contacts from several Districts said that their expectations have improved, though they do not see a substantial increase in economic activity through the end of the year.
Manufacturing activity declined or remained at a low level across most Districts. However, several Districts also reported that the outlook by manufacturers has improved somewhat. Demand for nonfinancial services contracted across Districts reporting on this segment. Retail spending remained soft as consumers focused on purchasing less expensive necessities and shied away from buying luxury goods. New car purchases remained depressed, with several Districts indicating that tight credit conditions were hampering auto sales. Travel and tourism activity also declined. A number of Districts reported an uptick in home sales, and many said that new home construction appeared to have stabilized at very low levels. Vacancy rates for commercial properties were rising in many parts of the country, while developers are finding financing for new commercial projects increasingly difficult to obtain. Most Districts reported that overall lending activity was stable or weak, but with mixed results across loan categories. Credit conditions remained stringent or tightened further. Energy activity continued to weaken across most Districts, and demand for natural resources remained depressed. Planting and growing conditions varied across Districts as did agricultural input costs.
Labor market conditions continued to be weak across the country, with wages generally remaining flat or falling. Two Districts also mentioned employers’ plans to scale back employee benefit programs. The Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis Districts reported that some state and local governments faced hiring freezes or outright job cuts. While manufacturing employment levels remained low, some Districts saw signs that job losses may be moderating. With few exceptions, Districts reported that prices at all stages of production were generally flat or falling. The notable exception to the downward pressure on prices was the widely-reported increase in oil prices.
For those interested, the report provides more extensive color on developments within specific industry segments. Additionally, the report is broken down by the specific Federal Reserve districts: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, San Francisco.
For those who find meaningful “green shoots” in the summary report or within the specifics, I will admit your eyesight or binoculars are far stronger than mine.