Highlights from the latest Beige Book economic survey of the Fed’s 12 regional bank districts

By Jeannine Aversa, AP
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Highlights from the Fed’s latest economic survey

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.)

Economic developments were positive. Most factories reported favorable results. Software and information technology companies said business improved. Retailers reported mixed sales. Back-to-school sales were modest, with shoppers focused on buying only for immediate needs. Travel and tourism were stronger than expected. Home sales were very weak.


(This region covers New York and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.)

Economy showed signs of decelerating. Retail sales slowed, especially at New York City stores. But tourism in New York City has stayed strong, helped by businesses travelers. Manufacturing activity slowed, after improving in the first half of the year. Housing markets continued to weaken after the expiration of the government’s homebuyer tax credit. Demand for office space also was weaker across the region, with vacancy rates increasing modestly in Manhattan and Albany. Rents are down sharply in Manhattan, Long Island and northern New Jersey.


(This region covers Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.)

Economic activity was mixed. Most major manufacturers reported slower business. But makers of wood and food products, industrial materials and testing equipment saw demand rise. Real-estate activity slowed. Retailers’ sales rose. Some stores noted healthy sales of clothing and small appliances but weak sales of big-ticket consumer electronic products. Tourism improved.


(This region covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.)

Economic activity improved slightly. An uptick was reported in residential and commercial construction. Retailers and auto dealers saw a small rise in sales. Factories reported that production was either mainly stable or down. Most steel producers saw volume increase. Reports from energy producers and freight haulers were generally favorable. Demand for loans by businesses and consumers was weak.


(This region covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of West Virginia.)

Signs of slowing or contracting economic activity became more prevalent. Manufacturing expanded at a slower pace. A maker of exterior doors for houses said business had halted. Retail sales sputtered. Sales fell at building-supply and lawn-and-garden stores. Real-estate activity stayed weak. Tourism activity strengthened.


(This region covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.)

Economic activity slowed. Most merchants reported sales had fallen. The BP oil spill hurt tourism along the Gulf Coast. But areas not affected by the oil spill noted improvements. Manufacturing activity grew more slowly. Local oil production increased slightly. But concerns remain about the longer-term impact of the deepwater drilling moratorium on the Gulf’s energy production. Home sales weakened, as did home prices. In commercial real-estate, vacancy rates were high across the region.


(This region covers Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Illinois and Indiana.)

Economic activity moderated. Manufacturing slowed, with makers of construction materials and household goods reporting declines in shipments. But demand for heavy equipment increased, and export activity was robust. Construction activity slowed. Home sales dropped. Retail sales increased, helped by state sales tax holidays and heavy discounting on back-to-school items like clothing. In agriculture, livestock revenue improved. So did dairy, hog and cattle prices.


(This region covers Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.)

Economy grew at a modest pace. Manufacturing activity picked up. Makers of soap, glass products, autos and parts, and primary metals reported plans to open new plants and hire. Service-sector activity improved. Transportation, telecommunications, government services and business support companies all expanded operations and hired. Housing market held steady. Retail sales were mixed.


(This region covers Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.)

Economy grew modestly. Business at retailers rose, with a Montana retailer noting that sales for appliances and electronic were up about 10 percent from a year ago. The tourism business was solid. Visits to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks were higher than a year ago, although tourists were spending less on average. Activity in manufacturing, energy, mining and agriculture all rose. Real-estate activity weakened.


(This region covers Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Missouri and New Mexico.)

Modest economic growth was reported. Consumer spending increased slightly, as did auto sales. Activity in the energy business expanded solidly, with companies reporting a rise in drilling activity, especially for oil. Agricultural conditions improved with higher crop prices. Livestock prices held steady. Manufacturing production was flat. Housing activity fell sharply.


(This region covers Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana.)

Economy expanded modestly. Energy sector remained a source of strength. Drilling activity rose, and drilling-services companies reported solid demand. In agriculture, a record cotton crop is expected for Texas this year. Demand for U.S. agricultural products has grown in the wake of flooding in Pakistan and a drought in Russia. Manufacturing activity was mixed. Transportation services reported solid growth. Retail sales rose at a slower pace.


(This region covers California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.)

Modest economic growth was reported. Retail sales were mixed, with department stores and discounters reporting gains in less expensive household goods. But sales of major appliances and furniture slowed. Factory production firmed, with demand strengthening for makers of semiconductors and other technology products. Food makers also saw sales growth. Agricultural producers reported robust sales for certain crops and livestock products. Housing demand was weak.

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