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TEXT: Federal Reserve Beige Book Summary Section>
WASHINGTON (MNI) - The following is the text of the summary section
of the Federal Reserve's summary of economic conditions report, or Beige
Book, released Wednesday:
Overall Economic Activity
Ecconomic activity generally continued to expand modestly in the
final six weeks of 2019. The Dallas and Richmond Districts noted
above-average growth, while Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City
reported sub-par growth. Consumer spending grew at a modest to moderate
pace, with a number of Districts noting some pickup from the prior
reporting period. On balance, holiday sales were said to be solid, with
several Districts noting the growing importance of online shopping.
Vehicle sales generally expanded moderately, though a handful of
Districts reported flat sales. Tourism was mixed, with growth reported
in the eastern seaboard Districts but activity little changed in the
Midwest and West. Manufacturing activity was essentially flat in most
Districts, as in the previous report. Business in nonfinancial services
was mixed but, on balance, growing modestly. Transportation activity
was also mixed across Districts, with a majority reporting flat to
weaker activity. Banks mostly characterized loan volume as steady to
expanding moderately. Home sales trends varied widely across Districts
but were flat overall, while residential rental markets strengthened.
Some Districts pointed to low inventories as restraining home sales.
New residential construction expanded modestly. Commercial real estate
activity varied substantially across Districts. Agricultural conditions
were little changed, as was activity in the energy sector. In many
Districts, tariffs and trade uncertainty continued to weigh on some
businesses. Expectations for the near-term outlook remained modestly
favorable across the nation.
Employment and Wages
Employment was steady to rising modestly in most Districts, while
labor markets remained tight throughout the nation. Most Districts
cited widespread labor shortages as a factor constraining job growth,
and, in a few cases, business expansion. A few Districts noted brisk
demand for professional, technical, and managerial workers. A number
of Districts reported job cuts or reduced hiring among manufacturers,
and there were scattered reports of job cuts in the transportation and
energy sectors. Wage growth was characterized as modest or moderate in
most Districtssimilar to the prior reporting periodand there were
scattered reports of wage increases from year-end hikes in minimum
wages. A few Districts also noted the use of benefits, incentives,
training programs, and automation to reduce vacancies.
Prices continued to rise at a modest pace during the reporting
period, as did input costs. A number of Districts reported that retail
selling prices rose at a slightly faster, but still subdued, pace. A
few Districts indicated that some businesses were passing along tariff
costs to consumersmostly in retail but also in construction. Some
Districts noted that restaurants were being pressured by rising food
prices. There were scattered reports of declining prices in some
manufacturing industries, as well as in the energy sector. Those
Districts reporting on price expectations indicated that prices were
expected to continue to rise in the months ahead.
* Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York based on
information collected on or before January 6, 2020.
** MNI Washington Bureau (202) 371-2121
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