Fed's Beige Book Suggests Modest Growth

The Fed's 12 reporting districts noted modest improvement, particularly across the manufacturing sector, although housing and labor markets remained weak.
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) -- Economic activity rose at a modest pace from September to early October with growth across manufacturing, energy and agricultural sectors, according to the latest Beige Book released Wednesday.

Retail spending and non-financial services saw moderate increases.

The anecdotal report from the Federal Reserve's 12 reporting districts will be used by the

Federal Open Market Committee

at its next policy-setting meeting in November.

Retailers said consumers "are slowly regaining confidence, but remain price-conscious and were largely limiting purchases to necessities and nondiscretionary items." Back-to-school spending helped some districts and most areas expect to see moderate growth through the end of the year. Meanwhile, improved business travel helped hotels and airlines.

The flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity increased demand for accounting services. Consulting firms also saw slight gains although lending activity remained largely flat.

"Demand for commercial and industrial loans remained weak as businesses continued to postpone capital spending plans because of economic and public policy uncertainties. However, merger and acquisition lending picked up in a few Districts," according to the report, which also noted that commercial real estate lending remained weak.

The housing market saw little improvement as home sales continued to fall although home prices showed some signs of stabilization. Furthermore, sales and construction activity in the sector are expected to show minimal growth to year-end.

Although input costs increased marginally, the report said prices on final goods and services remained flat and wage pressures continued to be subdued. Meanwhile, hiring activity was limited with "many firms reluctant to add to permanent payrolls given economic softness."

Expectations that the FOMC will announce additional stimulus measures after its Nov. 2-3 meeting are extremely high. The announcement is slated for 2:15 p.m. ET on Nov. 3.

-- Written by Melinda Peer in New York


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