Beige Book: Moderate Economic Expansion Amid Uncertainty
According to the Fed’s recently released Beige Book, reports from the twelve Federal Reserve districts suggest overall economic activity expanded at a moderate pace during the reporting period from early April to late May. Outlooks were positive overall; however, contacts in a number of districts were concerned that a slowdown in Europe and domestic political uncertainty may affect future business conditions.
Highlights from the commentary included:
Manufacturing & Capital Spending
Manufacturing continued to expand, and most districts reported gains in production or new orders. The only exceptions were from the Philadelphia, Richmond and St. Louis districts, where factory activity was mixed or had softened slightly.
Capital spending plans in most reporting districts were positive. Ongoing capital investments and plans for future capacity expansions were reported by various manufacturers in the Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Kansas City districts. Firms in the Cleveland district noted spending on capital outlays was on track, while producers in the Philadelphia district reported a decline in future spending plans since the previous report.
Manufacturers’ outlooks were positive in the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and Kansas City districts; however, contacts in a number of districts were concerned that a slowdown in Europe and domestic political uncertainty may affect future business conditions.
Banking and Finance
Most districts that commented on lending noted steady or slightly stronger loan demand. Small and medium-sized banks in the New York district reported the most broad-based increase in loan demand since the mid-1990s. Several bankers in the Richmond district said the volume of small business loan applications was markedly higher. Drivers of business loan demand included energy, healthcare, and commercial real estate. Several districts noted increased demand for capital spending loans.
A number of districts said loan pricing remained quite competitive. Lending standards were relatively unchanged to slightly easier across districts and loan types. Credit quality remained solid, and there were several reports of improved loan quality. Most district banks said loan delinquencies continued to decline.
To read the Federal Reserve Beige Book Summary of Commentary, click here.