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Fed Beige Book: Expansion Continues … in Moderation

Contacts in all 12 Federal Reserve Districts reported that the last six-week tracking period of the Beige Book economic roundup has brought continued growth with, stop us if you’ve heard this many times before, manufacturing leading the charge.

Manufacturing’s mid-winter increase was characterized as “steady” through the nation, with new orders, shipments and production up in most of the districts. Auto-related industries and those tied to capital spending continued to thrive.

Agriculture and real estate were more mixed bags, pending on the location – but, for the latter, anything above across-the-board stagnation for the reeling construction industry reads like a win.
Business credit quality and demand were stable or showed a slight uptick in districts including Cleveland, Richmond, San Francisco in Atlanta. There was particular middle-market strength in Dallas in that regard, and there was also a bump in large corporate lending in Chicago.

For overall growth, across all sectors, Philadelphia and Atlanta demonstrated the best six-week showing, according to Beige Book. The east-coast duo was followed by auto-friendly districts of Cleveland and Chicago as well as Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.

The good news was well-timed for a long-battered Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The chairman was due on Capitol Hill Thursday to present the Semi-annual Monetary Policy report to the House Financial Services Committee, where he has faced sharp criticism before election-mode lawmakers in recent months.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer