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The Beige Book — a/k/a the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District — is produced eight times each year and compiles information from interviews with business people in each District, as well as from Federal Reserve Bank and Branch directors. The publication's original purpose was to supplement official statistics with current anecdotal accounts of the economic environment; now, it is often used as the "canary in the coalmine" to predict trends.  The October 2013 Beige Book --  prepared for the Oct. 29-30 Federal Open Market Committee meeting (the FOMC is the Fed’s policy-setting body) -- shows that the U.S. economy grew at a “modest to moderate” pace in September and the beginning of October.  According to the Book, "[c]ontacts across Districts generally remained cautiously optimistic in their outlook for future economic activity, although many also noted an increase in uncertainty due largely to the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling debate." More specific observations include:

 

  • Strong auto sales in most districts
  • Retailer optimism about the holiday season
  • High levels of travel and tourist activity within Districts
  • Modest manufacturing expansion
  • Improving real estate market activity, though lending activity has changed little
  • Moderate employment growth

 

Specific to Cleveland's 4th District, the Book notes that the economy continues to expand at a moderate pace.  To wit, during the past six weeks:

  • Demand for manufactured products grew at a moderate rate
  • While the housing market activity held steady, nonresidential builders saw an overall pick-up in business
  • Retailers reported stronger sales during August and September
  • New motor-vehicle purchases posted moderate gains on a year-over-year basis
  • Shale-gas activity is showing signs of moderating due to low natural gas prices
  • Applications for business credit were flat, while consumer credit demand rose slightly
  • Per staffing-firms, the number of job openings and placements increased slightly, with vacancies found primarily in healthcare and manufacturing

 

For the full Beige Book go to: http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/beigebook/beigebook201310.htm

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