Yesterday the Federal Reserve issued findings from a recent survey of the economy, something it calls the Beige Book (which is totally not code for a new Pottery Barn catalogue). In compiling the report, the Fed slices the country up into 12 pieces, based on banking regions. Looking at a myriad of factors--car and home sales, retail activity, manufacturing--this is an attempt to take a reading of the nation's overall economic health. And so--how is the patient faring?
Not too bad! The Fed gave mostly positive marks to 10 out of 12 regions, with only Philadelphia--covering Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey--and Richmond--the Carolinas, the Virginias, and Maryland--receiving mixed reviews. Ten outta 12 sure ain't bad. Babe Ruth, after all, collected hits less than 35% of the time he went to bat, and he is widely considered the best baseball player ever.
But economics is not baseball of course (more beer and stats, for starters), and we must take this relative good Beige Book news in stride. The economy is still at a tenuous juncture. It was only last April, keep in mind, that Beige Book authors penned a vastly different narrative, writing, in part:
"Manufacturing activity weakened across a broad range of industries in most Districts, with only a few exceptions. Nonfinancial service activity continued to contract across Districts. Retail spending remained sluggish, although some Districts noted a slight improvement in sales compared with the previous reporting period. Residential real estate markets continued to be weak."
Tolstoy couldn't have said it any sadder, himself. And so while this latest report is certainly a welcome addition to the Beige Book cannon, we cannot rest until all 12 Districts are thriving. At which point we can shout with feeling: Eat it, Babe Ruth!