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Summary of Economic Reports by Federal Reserve District Banks

Following is a summary of U.S. economic conditions as reported by the 12 Federal Reserve district banks in the central bank’s latest regional survey, also known as the beige book.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland prepared the latest report. Information was collected on or before Nov. 19.

Boston: “Business activity in the First District continues to expand gradually. Contacts in manufacturing, software and IT services, staffing, and commercial real estate seem more upbeat than six or 12 weeks ago, while retailers continue to give mixed reports, and residential real estate markets remain soft. Labor demand is improving somewhat, with most contacted sectors undertaking modest net hiring.”

New York: “The Second District’s economy has continued to expand since the last report, with noticeable improvement in the labor market, while prices have remained stable. Non-manufacturing contacts overall report steadily improving business conditions, whereas manufacturing-sector contacts report a recent pullback in activity; even so, respondents in both sectors indicate that they continue to add workers, on balance, and plan to do so in the months ahead.”

Philadelphia: “Business activity in the Third District has been varied across sectors since the last Beige Book. Manufacturers, on balance, reported increases in shipments and new orders in November. Retailers have been making year-over-year gains in sales. Motor vehicle dealers have also posted year-to-year sales increases.”

Cleveland: “On balance, economic activity in the Fourth District grew at a modest pace during the past six weeks. Manufacturers reported some improvement in new orders and production. Car sales increased, while general retailing was flat to down slightly. Freight carriers saw a small rise in volume, and energy companies reported stable production.”

Richmond: “Fifth District economic activity increased at least moderately in most sectors since our last assessment. Manufacturing continued to receive upbeat news from contacts, with many reports of strengthening orders and shipments. Services firms reported mostly stable-to-improving demand, after several months of declines. In addition, bankers noted slight improvements in most areas of lending, and tourism picked up, led by gains in the Baltimore area.”

Atlanta: “Reports from Sixth District business contacts indicated that economic activity rose modestly in October through mid-November. Retailers noted some increase in traffic and sales, and expectations for holiday sales were generally positive. Tourism related spending improved largely as a result of an uptick in international visitors and business travel.”

Chicago: “Economic activity in the Seventh District increased at a slightly faster pace this reporting period. Retail and manufacturing contacts were more optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the year and early 2011, while construction and financial contacts remained cautious in their assessment. Consumer spending rose moderately, and business spending continued to increase at a steady pace. Manufacturing production also increased, while construction was limited outside of highway and bridge work.”

St. Louis: “Reports from contacts in the Eighth District have been mixed since our previous survey. Manufacturing activity has continued to increase, while activity in the services sector has declined. Retail sales in October and early November decreased compared with a year ago, while auto sales increased over the same period. Home sales have declined across the District, while commercial and industrial real estate market conditions have been mixed.”

Minneapolis: “Since the last report, the Ninth District economy grew at a firm pace. Consumer spending, tourism, services, manufacturing, energy, mining and agriculture saw increases. Commercial construction was mixed; residential construction decreased. Meanwhile, commercial real estate was weak, and residential real estate activity decreased. Labor markets showed some signs of strengthening, but wage increases were generally modest.”

Kansas City: “The District economy strengthened in October and early November, despite headwinds from the residential and commercial construction sectors. Additional gains in consumer spending boosted optimism for holiday sales among retailers and auto dealers. With moderate gains in October and November, manufacturing plant managers expected production activity and new orders to rise further with a pickup in export activity.”

Dallas: “The Eleventh District economy expanded at a modest pace over the past six weeks. Activity in the energy sector strengthened, and transportation services and staffing firms reported steady but solid demand. Retailers said apparel sales were slow due to unseasonably warm weather, while reports from the manufacturing sector were mixed. Activity in the housing market remained sluggish but conditions improved slightly in commercial real estate.”

San Francisco: “Economic activity in the Twelfth District continued to edge up during the reporting period of mid-October through mid-November. Despite rising prices for selected commodities, price increases for final goods and services remained quite limited, and upward wage pressures were largely absent. Sales of retail items and services rose a bit further. Manufacturing activity in the District continued to expand on net. Sales of agricultural products were robust, and demand strengthened for providers of energy resources.”

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