Beige Book Update Shows Some National, Little Regional Growth

Beige Book Update Shows Some National, Little Regional Growth


By Kenneth Hunter

NOTE: The following represents the analysis-based opinion of the author and do not reflect those of his employer or any other affiliations.

The Federal Reserve released its latest update of national and regional economic activity on July 27th. Overall, national activity appears to be improving across most sectors, while results indicate minimal growth in the mid-Atlantic states, including North Carolina.

National Highlights

  • Continued economic growth, though “the pace has moderated in many Districts”
  • Reduction in gas prices helped increase consumer spending
  • Continued improvement in nonfinancial services
  • Increased transportation activity
  • Manufacturing improving, with optimistic outlooks from parties in several districts
  • Little change in current residential real estate conditions, while nonresidential real estate improved
  • Some growth in commercial and business loan activity, and little improvement in supply of quality credit conditions
  • Agriculture sector stressed by extreme summer heat and drought in several areas
  • Continued strength in energy sector activity
  • Softening or little change on hiring, with wage pressures “subdued”
  • Price pressures “moderated”, in part because firms cannot pass along actual costs increases to customers because of market conditions
Richmond District/Mid-Atlantic Highlights
  • Overall activity was relatively unchanged
  • June improvement in manufacturing stalled in July
  • July port activity improved, compared to June, though soft conditions persist with respect to imports and inventory
  • Retail performance was mixed
  • Improvement in service sector
  • Increased loan demand
  • Pick-up in real estate activity, compared to last year
  • Slight labor market improvement, especially with temporary staffing
  • “Fantastic” July for tourism industry
“Beige Book” reports are compiled 8 times per year. The July 27th report can be accessed online at this link.

Credit Conditions Map available through New York Federal Reserve site

Finding data on current credit market conditions and how your local area may compare to national trends and surrounding areas is not easy. Some of the most important information (like foreclosure data) is not collected by public agencies, but rather private groups (i.e., Mortgage Bankers Association) for significant fees. Surveys are also prepared by a variety of agencies, sometimes necessitating wide searches across sites for information that can take considerable time to gather.

The New York District of the Federal Reserve Bank has made some of this a little easier by developing a “Credit Conditions” page on their website that provides regularly-updated maps of data (by county and state). ┬áPage viewers can highlight specific counties to see how they compare to national averages. For instance, the picture below shows most recently-analyzed mortgage delinquency rates (90+ days).

Quick Primer on “The Beige Book”

Earlier today, the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee published an update on its almost-monthly overview of current national economic conditions, a document known as “The Beige Book.” This report, which provides written summaries of economic activity across several sectors, contains a nationwide overview as well as reports by Federal Reserve District.

“The Beige Book” is published 8 times a year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and December) and is available online in HTML and PDF format. The Richmond District summary is something you can consider sharing with your senior staff and elected officials, as it is a combination of both statistical analysis and commentary from business owners surveyed to gauge other facets of economic activity.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond also provides more-detailed reports of information contained in “The Beige Book,” by district and state. Current and time-series data is available for North Carolina on employment, income, and real estate information. If you are unable to generate your own reporting, this makes a pretty adequate, regularly-updated substitute.

Link to “The Beige Book”

Link to Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Reports (Snapshots)