Beige Book says housing is slowing amid high inflation

Fed’s Beige Book reiterated the economy expanded at a moderate pace

Fed’s Beige Book reiterated the economy expanded at a moderate pace.

But there was a big “however,” something the Fed typically does not express:

“several Districts reported grow signs of a slowdown in demand, and contacts in five Districts noted concerns over an increased risk of a recession.”

Most Districts reported moderation in consumer spending as higher food and gas prices diminished households’ discretionary income.

Federal Reserve Regions

Auto sales were sluggish with low inventories still impacting.

Leisure travel was “healthy.” Manufacturing was mixed. Non-financial services firms saw stable to slightly higher demand. Housing demand weakened.

As in the prior report, the outlook for future economic growth was mostly negative.

Employment generally continued to rise at a moderate pace and conditions were tight overall.

Jerome Powell, FOMC Chair

But there was some sign of modest improvement in labor availability.

Most Districts reported wage growth.

“Substantial” price increases were reported across all Districts, at all stages of consumption, with food, commodities, and energy (particularly fuel) cost remaining “significant.”

There was some moderation in construction materials.

Pricing power was steady, but firms in some sectors like travel and hospitality, were able to pass through sizeable increases to consumers. That is seen persisting through the year.

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Rate Hikes are Coming!

Fed Chair confirmed a 25 bp rate hike this month

Fed’s Beige Book was released a few minutes ago. The report reiterated the economy expanded at a “modest to moderate” pace. Many Districts reported that the surge in Covid cases and severe winter weather disrupted businesses. Some firms noted a “temporary” weakening in demand in the hospitality sector to Covid.

The Beige Book reports an expanding economy

“All Districts” said supply chain issues and low inventories continued to restrain growth, especially in construction.

The overall outlook for the next 6 months remained one of stable and general optimism, though with elevated uncertainty.

Powell, FOMC Chair, Stockwinners
Fed Chief Jerome Powell

For the labor market, the widespread strong demand for labor was hampered by “equally widespread reports of worker scarcity.”

Meanwhile,  Fed Chair Powell’s testified before the Congress today. He confirmed a 25 basis points rate hike is in the cards for the March 15-16 meeting.

FOMC as policymakers look to address “indisputably” high inflation pressures. He also suggested more aggressive increases could be warranted down the road. Powell said liquidity has been functional thanks to a number of measures and facilities put in place, including swap lines and the standing repo facility.

FOMC is looking to soak up liquidity

The Fed has “institutionalized liquidity provisions” — hence the geopolitical pressures have not added stresses in the funding markets.

The markets are sharply higher across all sectors.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility.

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