Current Economic Conditions
The US economy improved across all regions in the final six weeks of 2011, boosted by strong holiday sales, the Federal Reserve said in a report released today. Seven Districts characterized growth as modest; of the remaining five, New York and Chicago noted a pickup in the pace of growth, Dallas and San Francisco reported moderate growth, and Richmond indicated that activity flattened or improved slightly. Compared with prior summaries, the reports on balance suggest ongoing improvement in economic conditions in recent months, with most Districts highlighting more favorable conditions than identified in reports from the late spring through early fall.
Consumer spending picked up in most Districts, reflecting significant gains in holiday retail sales compared with last year’s season, and activity in the travel and tourism sector expanded in most areas. Demand strengthened further for nonfinancial services, including professional and transportation services. Manufacturing activity generally continued to expand, although the pace of growth has slowed for selected subsectors such as technology products. Agricultural producers and extractors of natural resources reported generally robust conditions. Activity stayed sluggish in residential real estate markets, and conditions in commercial real estate markets remained somewhat soft overall but showed signs of ongoing improvement in several Districts. Reports from financial institutions generally indicated a slight uptick in loan demand by businesses, along with improvements in overall credit quality.
Upward price pressures and price increases remained quite limited for most categories of final goods and services, as the effects of prior increases in the costs of selected inputs have eased. Upward wage pressures were modest overall, although a few Districts noted substantial compensation increases for workers with specialized skills in selected sectors and regions.
Eleventh District – Dallas
The Eleventh District economy grew at a moderate pace since the last report. Manufacturing activity was mixed. Contacts said retail sales were robust and automobile sales held steady. Demand for business services was solid, and activity in transportation services rose modestly. Housing and commercial real estate markets continued to improve slightly. Construction activity remained subdued, with apartment construction being the major exception. Financial services respondents said overall loan demand was flat to up slightly. Energy activity slowed somewhat, but respondents expect strong growth in activity in 2012. Agricultural conditions remained weak. Employment levels were mostly unchanged. Price and wage pressures were subdued.