Fed’s Beige Book reports expanding economic activity

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 5:32 p.m. MDT

The Federal Reserve’s latest edition of the Beige Book indicates the U.S. economy is continuing to expand at a modest rate.

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The Federal Reserve’s latest edition of the Beige Book indicates the U.S. economy is continuing to expand at a modest rate. Covering the period from early July to late August, the Beige Book, published eight times a year, is a commentary on the economic conditions as reported by the 12 Federal Reserve districts.

In this latest report issued in early September, overall wage pressures are deemed modest. Demand for workers skilled in information technology remained relatively high across the 12 districts surveyed. In addition, the report noted ongoing shortages of workers with specialized skills in the areas of engineering and construction in selected districts.

Although aggregate pricing was indicated slightly higher across the broad range of locations, services and products surveyed, the Fed’s assessment was that pricing pressures remain subdued.

Even in the face of rising interest rates, most of the districts indicated residential real estate activity increased modestly. Aggregate lending activity was mixed across the 12 districts, while overall credit quality was reported as improved.

Headquartered in San Francisco, the 12th Federal Reserve District encompasses the western states of the U.S., including Utah. This is the largest of the 12 districts by both geography and population.

In the 12th District, wage gains were generally held in check by the excess supply of those looking for new employment opportunities. Where specialized skill sets are in high demand, wages increased for these specific capabilities.

In the real estate sector, commercial activity saw some strengthening. Activity across the district in the residential real estate sector was also reported to strengthen during this most recent reporting period.

Overall price increases for services and end products in the 12th District were indicated as subdued.

Given these survey results for the 12th District and for the other 11 districts spanning the entire country, potentially problematic inflation pressures do not yet seem evident. Wages are generally being held in check, due to the availability of those seeking employment. Pricing of most goods and services remains in check, although some underlying pricing increases occurred in selected commodities.

These modest price inflation results, along with ongoing stable wages resulting from an excess supply of those desiring to work, should enable the Federal Reserve to keep short-term interest rates low for the foreseeable future.

Kirby Brown is the CEO of Beneficial Financial Group in Salt Lake City.

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