WASHINGTON (3/3/16)--In its latest assessment of the economic climate, the Federal Reserve reported that economic activity ticked upward in most of the Fed’s 12 districts since January.
The Beige Book findings were released two weeks ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee’s next meeting March 15-16.
Economic activity was described as moderate, mixed and modest by most districts, with New York and Dallas reporting flat activity and Kansas City experiencing a modest decline.
“Across the nation, business contacts were generally optimistic about future economic growth,” the report said.
Loan demand increased in most districts, and credit quality remained steady as well. A “competitive lending environment” was seen in Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and San Francisco. Cleveland reported consumers were turning increasingly to non-bank competitors for auto lending.
Consumer spending increased in the majority of districts since the previous report, and the effects of lower gas prices were mixed. Cleveland, Philadelphia and St. Louis attributed some increased spending to lower gas prices, while Boston and Chicago expressed “disappointment” about the effect of lower prices.
Most districts experienced slight to strong wage growth, pushing wages upward with the exception of Kansas City, Richmond and Atlanta. In St. Louis, 56% of the business contacts--the highest in two years--reported that wages were above year-ago levels. Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St Louis, Minneapolis and San Francisco all reported positive wage growth among high-skilled workers.