We Read It So You Don’t Have To: 12 Beige Book Gems – Real Time Economics

The cast of “After Midnight” attends the show’s final curtain call at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in late June in New York City. Revenues and attendance were up at Broadway shows in late May and June.
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The Federal Reserve’s “beige book” report, out Wednesday, offers a snapshot of economic activity across the country in recent weeks based on anecdotes gathered from the central bank’s 12 districts from late May through early July. Despite its bland title, there are often lots of interesting nuggets tucked within.

Here are excerpts:

THE YOUNG ARE MISSING: According to contacts in the Boston area, hiring in both Portland and Hartford — and hence added office demand — is held back by a scarcity of young, educated workers in these cities.

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: With more Broadway shows running in New York City through the early summer than in a number of years, revenues and especially attendance at Broadway theaters strengthened further in late May and June.

A TAXING PROBLEM: Philadelphia-area furniture retailers reported slower sales, attributing the decline to the end of the tax refund season and interpreting it as evidence that households will spend for the home when they have windfall income.

SPLIT-LEVEL HOMES: Home builders in the Cleveland district reported that banks remain reluctant to finance single-family tract development, while commercial developers indicated that banks and insurance companies are more willing to finance projects, including multifamily developments.

HUNGER PAINS: A grocery contact in North Carolina said his revenue growth was seasonal and related to events such as graduation and Memorial Day. An executive at a South Carolina grocery chain reported an increase in prices, particularly for meat.

RECALL TROUBLE: A large auto dealer in the Richmond, Va. district said that the massive vehicle recalls have recently begun to have a slight adverse effect on sales of used cars at his business. However, customer traffic remained up and new car sales were strong.

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME? Real-estate activity in Georgia and Florida was strong with high occupancy numbers at local hotels and resorts. There are several tourism-related projects under construction, which are intended to stimulate travel to the area. Mississippi’s casino gambling revenues in the first half of the year was down from a year ago. And hospitality industry contacts expressed concerns that a rise in gas prices may adversely affect summer tourist activity.

GROWTH GAINS: In the Chicago area, the district’s corn and soybean crops made up ground after a late start to planting as favorable weather helped plants emerge more quickly than the five-year average.

HIRE GROUND: In the St. Louis region, firms that plan to hire new employees and expand operations included auto parts, medical equipment, adhesive and sealant products, precious metals, electronic products, alcoholic beverage, and boat manufacturing companies.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Some Montana tourism-related businesses noted an increase in reservations at campgrounds and for outfitting and guiding services during the early part of the summer.

DAMPENED IN DALLAS: Single-family housing activity in the Dallas region was flat to slightly down since the last report. Sales and buyer traffic held steady, but some contacts reported a seasonal slowdown in activity. Low inventories and higher construction costs continued to push up home prices. Firms were optimistic that demand will remain strong this year.

PAY DAY: In the San Francisco area, some firms have felt pressure to offer slightly higher starting salaries in an effort to attract talent from competitors. Several contacts pointed to rising minimum wages as a source of upward wage pressure.



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