Will the latest Beige Book put pressure on the Fed to act next month?

The U.S. economy continued to grow — albeit at a moderate or modest pace — across most regions of the country from early October through mid-November, according to data released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve.

The latest Beige Book report combined with other strong economic data could pressure Fed leaders to raise interest rates, which have been near zero since 2008, when they meet in two weeks. Some Fed leaders are growing increasingly impatient: Two bankers dissented at the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Nov. 1-2 because they wanted to raise the federal funds rate by 0.25 percent.

The Beige Book is based on economic, employment, wage and price reports from 12 Federal Reserve banks nationwide. The San Francisco district, which covers seven western states plus Alaska and Hawaii, reported moderate economic growth. Inflation remained at bay, with slight upward price pressure in most areas.

Here’s some key economic data for the nation and the San Francisco district:

Real estate and construction: U.S. residential real estate activity improved across most districts, including San Francisco, with more single-family construction and higher home prices. The real estate market was particularly strong in the Intermountain West. Commercial construction increased in seven districts, including San Francisco, but shortages of labor and materials dampened growth in some parts of the western district.

Manufacturing: Electronics manufacturing expanded in the West, but manufacturing demand was mixed nationally. A strong U.S. dollar continues to curb exports.

Retail: Most districts saw higher retail sales heading into the holiday season. Sales declined at brick-and-mortar stores in the San Francisco district as consumers buy more online.

Services: Demand for services rose nearly everywhere, especially for IT services, tourism and e-commerce shipments in the San Francisco district.

Agriculture: Overall, U.S. farmers were satisfied with harvests, but low commodity prices hurt profits. California growers remain concerned about long-term drought challenges.

Employment and wages: Employment and wage growth was modest nationally, but over half of the 12 districts noting tighter labor markets. Employment and wages grew in the San Francisco district, but some industries reported labor shortages for skilled IT workers.

The Fed will redesign the Beige Book starting on Jan. 18 to “provide a more consistent presentation of the national economic conditions” across its 12 districts.


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