According to reports from the latest Beige Book, the economy expanded during the reporting period from early April to late May. According to the Fed, “Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest overall economic activity expanded during the reporting period from early April to late May.”
The report indicated that manufacturing activity generally expanded, and employment was steady. The Fed said, “Employment levels were up slightly over the reporting period, with some reports of layoffs. Wages rose slightly. Prices were stable or ticked up, although manufacturers in some districts cited lower input prices.”
The following was excerpted from the Biege Book report:
The downturn in the oil and gas industry tempered manufacturing growth in more than half the districts, particularly for industries dependent on the energy sector. These districts were Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Dallas. The Kansas City District reported that manufacturing production fell most sharply in the district’s energy-producing states like Oklahoma and New Mexico. The Dallas District noted that oilfield machinery sales remained weak and were down significantly from a year ago, and the Philadelphia District said businesses involved in natural gas and pipeline work noted negative impacts from decreased drilling activity and lowered capital expenditures. Contacts in the Boston District said the slowdown in oil and gas investment has been much bigger and faster than anticipated.
Cleveland and San Francisco District contacts generally increased their capital spending budgets over the reporting period, while contacts in the Minneapolis and Kansas City Districts noted declines and Boston and Philadelphia District contacts said capital expenditures were steady. Overall outlooks among manufacturers were generally positive, with some exceptions in the Cleveland, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts.
Lending activity increased during the reporting period. Several districts, including Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco reported modest to moderate increases in loan volumes. The New York District noted a strong, broad-based pick up in loan demand since the previous report; however, the Dallas District reported slower overall growth. Commercial and industrial loan demand improved in the Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, and San Francisco Districts, though it was characterized as stable in the Richmond and Kansas City Districts. Business lending expanded at a slower pace in the Dallas District, and the Chicago District saw an uptick in loan demand from small and large businesses, but weaker middle-market lending activity, particularly from the oil and gas industry. Commercial real estate financing held steady in the Kansas City District, while exhibiting continued strong growth in the New York, Cleveland, Chicago, and Dallas Districts.
Manufacturing activity generally held steady or increased over the reporting period, except for in the Dallas District where it was slightly weaker and in the Kansas City District where it fell markedly. Strength was seen in transportation equipment manufacturing, while continued weakness was reported in primary and fabricated metals products and energy-related industries. Most districts reported an uptick in retail spending, and outlooks were positive, with retailers expecting continued sales growth in 2015.
Growth rates varied across industries. Demand for transportation equipment manufacturing was strong in the Cleveland and Chicago Districts, and machinery manufacturers reported solid gains in the Philadelphia District and were expanding operations in the St. Louis District. Demand for high-tech products softened in the Dallas District, but sales of semi-conductors picked up in the San Francisco District.
Manufacturers of construction materials and/or machinery continued to see strengthening demand in the Cleveland and Chicago Districts, but unusually wet weather caused demand to flatten in the Dallas District. Demand increased for rubber and plastics products in the Philadelphia and Richmond Districts, and contacts in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the San Francisco District reported strong growth and record levels of activity in mergers and acquisitions.
To view the full Beige Book report, click here.