Federal Reserve: Economic Activity Expands

Seven out of 12 districts report modest economic growth.

Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts continued to indicate that the economy expanded at a modest to moderate pace from early January through mid-February in most districts since the previous Beige Book report.

Economic growth increased at a modest pace in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Kansas City. Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and Richmond all grew moderately with Cleveland continuing to rise at a steady pace into February.

Manufacturing activity accelerated somewhat, with most districts characterizing the pace of growth as moderate.

Home construction and sales continued to expand modestly in most districts, while residential rental markets were mixed. Home prices were steady to up modestly in most districts, and a number of districts noted low inventories of existing homes. Commercial real estate construction grew modestly, and sales and leasing activity grew moderately. Lending activity was steady to somewhat higher.

Consumer spending expanded modestly since the last report. Retail sales increased at a subdued pace across most of the nation, with a number of districts noting an ongoing shift from in-store to internet purchasing. Auto sales varied widely, but were said to be up in most districts. Tourism activity was mixed but mostly stronger.

Pricing pressures were little changed from the prior report. Most districts reported that selling prices were up modestly or moderately, though four indicated that prices had largely leveled off. Input prices were up modestly, on balance. Energy prices and farm prices were mixed but mostly steady, on balance, while prices for construction materials climbed in a number of districts.

Labor markets remained tight in early 2017, with some districts noting widening labor shortages. Employment grew moderately in most of the nation. In general, wages in most districts rose modestly or moderately, with a few reporting some pickup in the pace of wage growth.

 

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