Beige Book: Economic Activity Expanded and Loan Demand Increased

Overall economic activity expanded during the reporting period from early April to late May according to the fourth Federal Reserve Beige Book of 2015. While the pace of growth varied among districts, outlook among respondents were generally optimistic, with growth expected to continue at a modest to moderate pace in several districts.

Overall loan demand increased and credit quality and delinquency rates were stable or improved. Credit standards were mostly unchanged, except for scattered reports of easing in the Philadelphia, St. Louis, Atlanta and San Francisco districts. On the consumer lending side, several districts noted increased demand for auto loans, and reports on mortgage lending were mixed.

Most districts said residential and commercial real estate activity and construction improved since the last report. Home prices continued rising and low home inventories continued to constrain sales activity in some areas of the country.

Manufacturing activity generally held steady or increased over the reporting period, except for in the Dallas District where it was slightly weaker and in the Kansas City District where it fell markedly. Retail spending increased in most districts and retailers expect continued sales growth in 2015. Overall vehicle sales rose, particularly for trucks and SUVs which auto dealers in some districts attributed to lower gasoline prices.

Employment levels were up slightly over the reporting period, with some reports of layoffs. Wages rose slightly. Prices were stable or ticked up, although manufacturers in some districts cited lower input prices.