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Beige Book: Spending and Sandy

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

The final Beige Book for 2012 was released this week by the Federal Reserve. The Beige Book compiles anecdotal economic information about the 12 Federal Reserve Bank districts to give on-the-ground reports of the business conditions around the country.

The general consensus, according to this month's report, is that "economic activity expanded at a measured pace in recent weeks." Most of the business sectors showed mixed results with some areas of the country doing well while others experienced some softening.

Despite the hit to businesses in New York, retailers expect sales to pick up as residents rebuild and repair after Superstorm Sandy. In most other districts, consumer spending picked up over the period. Expectations for a pickup in sales are running high for all of the districts that reported on the upcoming holiday season.

Nonfinancial services were down in many areas, including New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Boston. Nonfinancial services include businesses such as tech services, business support, telecommunications, casinos, crisis management, and legal and insurance services as well as architecture and engineering.

Transportation activity was a mixed bag as was the manufacturing sector across the country. In Cleveland, St. Louis and Richmond, Va., reports revealed that manufacturing was up. Notably, the Beige Book reports that five of the 12 districts are concerned about the outlook for 2013, due to the potential fallout from the "fiscal cliff."

Real estate continues to be a bright spot, except for Boston and Philadelphia where the market for single-family homes did not improve since the last Beige Book. Construction also was up over the period.

Drought conditions still were impacting the agriculture industry in some areas such as Atlanta and Kansas City, Mo.

Finally, most areas reported some improvements in hiring though wage growth was largely stagnant. Inflation generally stayed in check during the period since the last Beige Book, though most of the districts reported higher prices in various areas. For instance Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco reported higher prices for construction materials while Richmond reported a pickup in the price of services. The Atlanta area reported higher energy prices, crop-related price increases and rising health care costs.

How are prices in your area? Have your wages changed since the financial crisis began?

Follow me on Twitter: @SheynaSteiner

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