Beige Book: boring color, great highlights about the economy

Beige Book is the Federal Reserve's periodic survey of economic conditions around the US.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke attends the grand opening of the Junior Achievement Finance Park in Fairfax, Va., Oct. 19. The following day, the Fed released its Beige Book survey of economic conditions around the US, which highlighted uneven growth in its districts.

Highlights from the Federal Reserve's survey of economic conditions nationwide. The survey, released Wednesday and known as the Beige Book, is based on information collected from the Fed's 12 regional bank districts.


(This region covers Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and part of Connecticut.)

Economic activity exceeded year-earlier levels. Retailers cited somewhat more positive results than six weeks ago. Shoppers increasingly responsive to "getting a good deal." Manufacturers reported sales growth after very strong first-half results. Some of that growth comes from overseas, but it also reflects domestic demand from the auto industry.


(This region covers New York and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.)

Economy continued to expand at a modest pace. Retailers report mixed sales, although stores in Manhattan fared better, helped by tourists. However, there were some signs that tourism is cooling. Broadway theaters said revenue weakened in September. Factories note improvements, following a pause in July and August. In Manhattan, office vacancy rates retreated in August and September, after rising in July. Bankers reported a decrease in delinquency rates for consumer loans.


(This region covers Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.)

Business activity has been mixed. Stores posted modest sales gains during the back-to-school shopping season. Some store executives said customer traffic and discretionary spending appeared to be increasing. Factories said new orders, shipments and backlogs of orders decreased slightly. However, makers of industrial machinery, food processors and producers of wood products saw demand for their goods rise.


(This region covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.)

Economic activity held steady. Factories reported modest growth in new orders and production. Some said demand from foreign customers is growing faster than from U.S. customers. Most steel makers said volume was flat or trending up. Growth in retail sales and new-car buying that began in the middle of the summer has tapered off. Shoppers prefer "private label" rather than brand names.


(This region covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of West Virginia.)

Economic activity was mixed. Store sales were flat or down, but tourism strengthened. Manufacturing activity also was lower, after expanding for seven months. Exports of commodities were up, partly due to increased grain shipments to Russia and Pakistan. Business activity at service-sector companies weakened. Some commercial real-estate agents in Washington, D.C., noted improvements — a pickup in office leasing activity and retailers revisiting development plans that had been abandoned a year ago.


(This region covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.)

The pace of economic activity remained slow. Retailers said mall traffic and sales decreased. Factories said new orders grew at a slower pace and production was flat. Transportation executives noted a decrease in domestic freight demand, but this was offset by an increase in international shipments. Tourism activity improved. Cruise bookings increased. Although the Gulf coast lost tourism business because of the oil spill, that was largely offset by increased tourism activity in Northeast Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.


(This region covers Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Illinois and Indiana.)

The pace of economic activity picked up moderately. Business spending increased, helped by recent tax changes. Such spending was concentrated in replacement of older equipment and other efficiency-improving systems. Construction activity improved slightly. Shoppers remain price conscious. Manufacturing production increased in September, after a summer pause. Several metals makers reported sales were the best so far this year. Makers of power generation, mining and medical equipment also reported a rise in orders. Export activity was robust, with stronger demand from Europe offsetting weaker demand from Asia and South America.


(This region covers Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.)

Economic activity expanded modestly. Factory activity increased. Makers of detergent, frozen foods, transformers, plastic products, autos and parts, and primary metals reported plans to expand operations and hire new workers. Makers of construction machinery, electronic components and wood products planned to open new facilities and hire. Service-sector businesses — including those in auto repair, transportation support and in the food industry also saw improvements. But hotels and casinos planned to cut back and lay off workers.


(This region covers Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.)

Economic growth has picked up somewhat. Consumer spending grew modestly. Cooler fall weather attracted shoppers. Tourism was up from a year ago. Attendance at the Minnesota State Fair almost reached last year's record high. Manufacturing showed gains. In Montana, a food processing company is expanding operations and a jet engine company plans to build a new plan. Service-sector companies also saw gains. Wet weather slowed some harvesting.


(This region covers Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Missouri and New Mexico.)

Economy posted moderate, but uneven growth. Retailers and hotels reported a rebound in business. But auto sales remained soft and the average check amount at restaurants was flat. Factories said production, new orders and shipments picked up. Expansion in the energy business supported increased hiring and capital spending. Wyoming coal production expanded rapidly, with train car loadings reaching a yearly high in the Powder River Basin.


(This region covers Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana.)

Economy expanded at a more subdued pace. Factories — especially those making construction materials such as cement, lumber and fabricated metals — said orders were flat. Transportation companies reported slower growth. Back-to-school sales picked up but shoppers are price conscious. In energy, drilling activity rose at a slower pace, partly due to a decline in natural-gas drilling. The U.S. rig count edged up by 8 rigs and 41 percent of U.S. activity is now directed to oil. Drilling services companies said business remains strong.


(This region covers California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.)

Economic activity posted modest growth. Manufacturing activity firmed. Demand grew for makers of semiconductors and other technology products. Extensive backlogs kept production rates at or near capacity for airplane makers. Retail sales remained sluggish but improved a bit. Moderately priced items at home and garden stores saw strong gains. But sales of furniture and appliances slowed. Sales of agriculture products — especially for corn and food grains — were brisk.

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