Reports on Wednesday from the 12 U.S. Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity has expanded since the previous Beige Book report, with all 12 districts characterizing the pace of growth as either modest or moderate.
Since the previous Beige Book report, activity in the New York and Philadelphia districts rebounded from the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Growth in the Boston, Richmond and Atlanta districts appears to have increased slightly, while the St. Louis District reported some slowing.
All 12 districts reported some growth in consumer spending. Overall, holiday sales were reported as modestly higher than in 2011, though sales were below expectations for contacts in many districts. Auto sales were reported as steady or stronger in 10 districts. Citing concerns that consumers will spend cautiously due to fiscal uncertainty, retail contacts and auto dealers reported a slightly dimmer, though positive, outlook for future sales. Tourism activity was reported to have increased across much of the United States due to strong business and international travel, early snowfall in some ski areas, and a rebound in areas disrupted by Hurricane Sandy.
Activity among nonfinancial service sectors improved overall, the reports indicated. Firms within the six districts reporting on transportation services generally noted increased volumes. Manufacturing was mixed overall since the previous Beige Book with six districts reporting an expansion of activity and three reporting a decrease.
Among districts reporting on their firms' near-term expectations, the manufacturing outlook remained generally optimistic, although capital spending plans were less uniformly positive.