The Federal Reserve's monthly report on economic activity, the so-called Beige Book, reported continued expansion at a modest pace in August, though several of the 12 districts were mixed or slowing, the Fed said Wednesday.
St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco reported modest or slight expansion. Atlanta reported expansion at a "very subdued pace," Cleveland reported slow growth and New York indicated growth remained sluggish. Chicago was slower; Richmond also reported sluggishness. Boston and Philadelphia were mixed, with Philadelphia adding that activity was somewhat weaker overall.
Several of the districts said volatility in the stock market had prompted some business to take a darker near-term outlook.
Consumer spending rose in most districts but was flat to down when the automotive category was removed.
Manufacturing was mixed, with many businesses saying they were less optimistic than they were a month earlier. The pace of activity slowed in many Districts, with New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond reporting declining activity, Boston and Dallas Districts noting slowing demand from Europe, Cleveland saying factory production was stable, and Atlanta and Chicago growing at a slower pace. Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco reported slight expansions, and St. Louis said activity continued to increase and that several manufacturers planned to open plants and expand operations in the near future.
Residential real estate activity remained weak. Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Dallas reported an increase in home sales over the previous year's anemic levels, but the rise in Atlanta was concentrated mainly in Florida. The remaining districts all reported stable or slower sales from the previous survey period, with several citing greater economic uncertainty as the primary cause.
New York and Philadelphia reported that a growing backlog of foreclosures in New Jersey continued to weigh on the housing market.
New-home construction was down or stagnant in most districts except Minneapolis and Kansas City. Several Districts indicated an improvement in home remodeling activity, and the New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland reported increased demand for multi-family housing projects.
Home prices were flat to slightly down in several districts, although New York said prices in many areas edged higher but remained below year-ago levels.
Labor markets were generally steady, although some districts reported modest employment growth. Most districts cited overall loan demand as stable to slightly weaker and said that loan quality was generally improving as credit standards remained largely unchanged.
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