The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Beige Book: Economy Continues Modest Expansion in September

Manufacturing activity continued to expand, while hiring at manufacturing firms remained 'sluggish.'

National economic activity continued to rise at a modest pace in September and early October, according to the latest Federal Reserve Board Beige Book.

Manufacturing activity continued to expand, with production and new orders rising across most Districts. Hiring at manufacturing firms remained sluggish. Inventories were generally light or in line with orders.

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Future capital spending plans appeared to be limited, except for in the St. Louis District where several manufacturers reported plans to build new plants or expand operations. Manufacturers’ assessments of future factory activity were optimistic in the New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City Districts, where contacts expect business conditions to remain positive or to improve in coming months.

Housing markets remained weak with most Districts reporting sales below year-ago levels. Reports on prices suggested stability, however. Conditions in the commercial real estate sector were subdued, and construction was expected to remain weak.

Lending activity was stable in most Districts. Agricultural conditions were generally favorable, and above-average yields were expected in most reporting Districts. Activity in the energy sector continued to expand.

Input costs, most notably for agricultural commodities and industrial metals, rose further. Shipping rates increased, and retailers in some Districts noted rising wholesale prices. However, prices of final goods and services were mostly stable as higher input costs were not passed on to consumers. Wage pressures were minimal.

Demand for nonfinancial services was reported to be stable to modestly increasing overall. Consumer spending was steady to up slightly, but consumers remained price-sensitive, and purchases were mostly limited to necessities and nondiscretionary items. New vehicle sales held steady or rose during the reporting period; sales of used automobiles were strong as well. Activity in the travel and tourism sector picked up.

View the full Beige Book report here.

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