Monday, December 5, 2011

The Going Nowhere Economy, Redux

From the latest Beige Book:

Overall economic activity increased at a slow to moderate pace since the previous report across all Federal Reserve Districts except St. Louis, which reported a decline in economic activity. District reports indicated that consumer spending rose modestly during the reporting period. Motor vehicle sales increased in a number of Districts, and tourism showed signs of strength. Business service activity was flat to higher since the previous report. Manufacturing activity expanded at a steady pace across most of the country. Overall bank lending increased slightly since the previous report, and home refinancing grew at a more rapid pace. Changes in credit standards and credit quality varied across Districts. Residential real estate activity generally remained sluggish, and commercial real estate activity remained lackluster across most of the nation. Single family home construction was weak and commercial construction was slow. Districts mostly reported favorable agricultural conditions. Activity in the energy and mining sectors increased since the previous report.

Hiring was generally subdued, although some firms with open positions reported difficulty finding qualified applicants. Wages and salaries remained stable across Districts. Overall price increases remained subdued, and some cost pressures were reported to have eased.

Overall growth was "slow to moderate."  These are not the types of words you want to hear when describing your economy.  Yet that's exactly where we've been for the last year -- stuck in slow growth.

Note the one thing that is missing from this report: real estate growth.