Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year.
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 by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.
Here is what April’s report says about the San Francisco District…
(*Warning: It’s not written in the most exciting language! :))
“Economic activity in the Twelfth District expanded at a modest pace during the reporting period of late February through early April. Price increases for most final goods and services were limited, and upward wage pressures were minimal overall. Sales of many retail items rose, and most business and consumer services gained further. District manufacturing activity appeared to increase on net. Production activity and sales grew for agricultural producers. Demand for both homes and commercial real estate properties continued to expand on balance. Contacts from financial institutions reported increased loan demand.
Prices and Wages
“Price increases for most final goods and services were limited. Reports were mixed for construction materials, with prices for some products such as cement, logs, and lumber edging up further; meanwhile, prices for some other metal and wood products were mostly flat. Contacts from retail grocery and restaurant chain establishments reported largely constant food prices as the prices of some of the underlying commodities have stabilized. Health-care price increases were limited, and fees for legal services held steady.” (*Read more on this section at link below.)
“District manufacturing activity appeared to step up during the reporting period of late February through early April. Contrary to downbeat expectations from earlier in the year arising from product release challenges, production activity for commercial aircraft and parts continued to grow robustly. Manufacturers in defense-related subsectors noted furloughs, layoffs, and plant closures at some production facilities. Reports indicated that inventories of semiconductors fell at the end of last year but remain roughly in line with current demand. Pharmaceutical goods producers reported modest gains. Wood product manufacturers stated that demand grew further, fueled both by recent rebounds in domestic residential construction activity and demand from China. Demand for steel products used primarily in transportation infrastructure and nonresidential construction projects increased, although overall capacity utilization for steelmakers remained at a relatively low level.”
Real Estate and Construction
“Activity in residential and commercial real estate markets continued to gain momentum, with notable gains in selected locales. Home sales climbed further in most regions, and low inventory levels coupled with healthy demand supported stable or increasing prices. Reports indicated that the pace of residential housing permit issuance increased significantly in many regions throughout the District. Rental activity for both single-family and multifamily homes was strong, based on low vacancy rates and stable rental rates. Construction of multifamily residential projects expanded further. Commercial real estate development and leasing activity increased, particularly in major metropolitan areas across the District, fueled in large part by sustained growth in the technology sector.”
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