Not much of a surprise from the Fed’s Beige Book. The Fed sees the economy improving moderately. In summary, they see a weak recovery, cash for clunkers created a false sense of retail sales optimism, residential real estate remains near its lows, commercial real estate is worse, labor markets are very weak though stablizing, and there are no signs of inflation in the economy. In other words, the printing press will continue to work overtime:
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicate that economic conditions have generally improved modestly since the last report. Eight Districts indicated some pickup in activity or improvement in conditions, while the remaining four—Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, and Atlanta—reported that conditions were little changed and/or mixed.
Consumer spending was reported to have picked up moderately since the last report, for both general merchandise and vehicles; a number of Districts noted relatively robust sales of used autos. Most Districts indicated that non-auto retailers were holding lean inventories going into the holiday season. Tourism activity varied across Districts. Manufacturing
conditions were said to be, on balance, steady to moderately improving across most of the country, while conditions in the nonfinancial service sector generally strengthened somewhat, though with some variation across Districts and across industries. Residential real estate conditions were somewhat improved from very low levels, on balance, led by the
lower end of the market. Most Districts reported some pickup in home sales, though prices were generally said to be flat or declining modestly; residential construction was characterized as weak, but some Districts did note some pickup in activity. Commercial real estate markets and construction activity were depicted as very weak and, in many cases,
Financial institutions generally reported steady to weaker loan demand, continued tight credit standards, and steady or deteriorating loan quality. In the agricultural sector, the fall harvest was delayed in the eastern half of the nation due to excessively wet conditions during October and early November. Most energy-producing Districts noted a slight uptick in activity in the sector since the last report. Labor market conditions remained weak since the last report, though there were signs of stabilization and scattered signs of improvement. While some Districts reported upward pressure on commodity prices, they saw little or no indication of upward wage pressures or of any significant increase in prices of finished