Fed’s Beige Book: Interest Rates, Inflation Weighing On U.S. Economy

After previously describing U.S. economic growth as modest, the Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book said economic activity has been “about flat or up slightly” since mid-October.

The Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in each of the twelve Fed districts, said five districts reported slight or modest gains in activity, while the rest experienced either no change or slight-to-modest declines.

The report said interest rates and inflation continued to weigh on activity, with many contacts expressing greater uncertainty or increased pessimism regarding the economic outlook.

Non-auto consumer spending eked out slight gains on balance, the Fed said, as inflation pushed low-to-moderate income consumers toward lower-priced goods.

The Beige Book described manufacturing activity as mixed and noted a slight decline in auto sales and a moderate decrease in home sales amid higher interest rates.

Employment grew modestly in most districts, the Fed said, although two districts reported flat headcounts and labor demand weakened overall.

While labor markets were still described as tight, the report noted further easing in hiring and retention difficulties.

With regard to inflation, the Beige Book said consumer prices rose at a moderate or strong pace in most districts.

Still, the pace of price growth slowed on balance, reflecting a combination of improvements in supply chains and weakening demand, the Fed said.

The Beige Book is typically released two weeks ahead of the Fed’s next monetary policy meeting, with the next meeting scheduled for December 13-14.

CME Group’s FedWatch Tool currently indicates a 72.3 percent chance of a 50 basis point rate hike and a 27.7 percent chance of a fifth straight 75 basis point rate hike.

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