Beige Book: Economic activity declined in all districts – falling sharply in most

Highlights of the Beige Book released May 27, 2020:

  • The next Fed decision is June 10
  • Wage pressure mixed
  • Pricing pressures varied but were steady to down modestly on balance
  • Date collected on or before May 18
  • In New York there were scattered signs of a pickup in early May
  • Full text

This doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know.

The overall summary is about what you would expect:
Economic activity declined in all Districts – falling sharply in most – reflecting disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer spending fell further as mandated closures of retail establishments remained largely in place during most of the survey period. Declines were especially severe in the leisure and hospitality sector, with very little activity at travel and tourism businesses. Auto sales were substantially lower than a year ago, although several Districts noted recent improvement. A majority of Districts reported sharp drops in manufacturing activity, and production was notably weak in auto, aerospace, and energy-related plants. Residential home sales plunged due in part to fewer new listings and to restrictions on home showings in many areas. Construction activity also fell as new projects failed to materialize in many Districts. Commercial real estate contacts mentioned that a large number of retail tenants had deferred or missed rent payments. Bankers reported strong demand for PPP loans. Agricultural conditions worsened, with several Districts reporting reduced production capacity at meat-processing plants due to closures and social distancing measures. Energy activity plummeted as firms announced oil well closures, which led to historically low levels of active drilling rigs. Although many contacts expressed hope that overall activity would pick-up as businesses reopened, the outlook remained highly uncertain and most contacts were pessimistic about the potential pace of recovery.