WASHINGTON – Highlights from the Federal Reserve’s survey of economic conditions nationwide. The survey, released Wednesday and known as the Beige Book, is based on information collected from the Fed’s 12 regional bank districts.
(This region covers Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and part of Connecticut.)
Business activity expanded gradually. Business contacts in manufacturing, software and information technologies services and commercial real estate were more upbeat than six or 12 weeks ago. Makers of semiconductors and auto parts as well as machinery saw robust sales growth. Retailers, however, reported mixed sales results. Most retailers expected modest holiday sales, boosted by heavy promotions and discounts. Travel and tourism business was strong.
(This region covers New York and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.)
The economy expanded. Retailers said sales picked up steadily. Auto dealers also reported good results. And, tourism activity in New York City showed signs of picking up in recent weeks. Broadway theaters said attendance and total revenues grew in October and early November, after dipping in September. Manhattan hotels reported occupancy rates hovered around 90 percent in October and were higher than a year earlier. Housing stayed weak. Activity in New York City’s co-op and condo market slipped. Rents in Manhattan are stable, but landlords are again offering concessions, such as one or more month’s free rent. Manufacturers saw some pull back in activity but were optimistic about near-term business.
(This region covers Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.)
Business activity has been mixed. Factories reported increases in new orders and shipments. Makers of furniture, industrial materials and testing and measuring equipment saw demand grow. But makers of construction-related goods reported orders flattening or falling. Retailers saw small-to-moderate sales gains. Clothing sales were brisk. Stores were discounting merchandise to spur fall and holiday sales. Housing activity slowed. Health care and information technology companies saw sales grow but activity in real estate, construction and finance was flat or fell.
(This region covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.)
Economic activity grew modestly. Factories reported some improvements in new orders and production. Steel producers and service centers said volume was either flat or growing. Auto production grew, and car sales increased. Freight transport executives said volume rose modestly. Retail sales were flat or down slightly. Shoppers stayed price sensitive and focused on necessities.
(This region covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of West Virginia.)
Economic activity expanded moderately in most industries. Factories improved, with makers of auto parts, machinery and plastics seeing gains. Retail sales declined, but there were pockets of strength. A boat show in Maryland drew over 90,000 visitors; sales were robust and financing at low rates was widely available. Housing activity was mixed. Commercial real-estate activity was weak, but property managers were becoming more optimistic about the near term. A commercial architect said he could “see light at the end of the tunnel” and was able to move ahead on several projects that had been on hold for well over a year. Hiring activity picked up, but employment agencies were uncertain gain would continue into December.
(This region covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.)
Economic activity increased modestly. Most retailers reported sales and foot traffic increasing. The holiday outlook was positive. Tourism activity improved, with hotel occupancy rates rising and bookings for cruises strong. Factories reported increases in new orders and production. Regional rail companies noted strong growth for metal and chemical goods, while shipments of autos and parts softened. Regional oil production remained above earlier levels as production from existing offshore platforms came online.
(This region covers Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Illinois and Indiana.)
Economic activity increased at a slightly faster pace. Consumers boosted spending moderately, but shoppers focused on essentials Best-selling items were heavily promoted and discounted like clothing, electronics and appliances. Factory production rose. Makers of fabricated metals and automotive equipment were among those seeing strong gains. Steel production, however, softened. Farm earnings were boosted by an early and large harvest. The region’s corn harvest should be the third-largest and for soybeans, the second largest.
(This region covers Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.)
Economic activity was mixed. Manufacturing grew. Makers of sanitary paper products, primary metals, auto parts were among those reporting plans to expand operations and hire. But companies that make wire products, air conditioners and motors planned to scale back operations and lay off workers. Retail sales were weaker. But car dealers said sales were higher.
(This region covers Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.)
The economy grew at a firm pace. Consumer spending, tourism, services, manufacturing, energy, mining and agriculture all grew. Luxury car dealerships in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area reported strong sales. Agriculture activity saw large harvests and solid prices. Oil-exploration activity increased. Commercial construction was mixed across the region. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, commercial developers said activity “was at a standstill.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
(This region covers Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Missouri and New Mexico.)
The region’s economy strengthened — despite headwinds from the residential and commercial construction sectors. Consumer spending improved and retailers were optimistic heading into the holiday season. Restaurant traffic was up. Manufacturing expanded, with some of the strongest gains for makers of food, fabricated metals and electronics. The energy business expanded at a robust pace. The number of active drilling rigs rose, mostly due to natural gas expansion in Oklahoma and New Mexico.
(This region covers Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana.)
The economy expanded at a modest pace. Retail sales grew, despite unseasonably warm weather that initially hurt clothing sales. Retailers expected modest sales gains for the holidays. Auto sales were weaker. The energy business strengthened, with land drilling the strongest and most profitable segment of the industry. Ranchers were concerned that the lack of rainfall was hampering winter grazing and hay production. Higher grain prices boosted margins for farmers but increased food costs for livestock producers.
(This region covers California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.)
Economic activity edged up. Manufacturing expanded. Makers of commercial aircraft and parts said growth in new orders combined with an extensive backlog has kept production at or near capacity. Demand grew for fabricated metal products, but sales were anemic for makers of wood products. Retail sales rose, with modest improvements at department stores and discount chains. Home sales were mixed. In commercial real estate, increases in leasing activity by technology companies in San Francisco were noted.