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Fed Beige Book Reveals Slower Consumer Spending, Higher Delinquencies

The most recent Federal Reserve Beige Book offers a nuanced view of the economy, revealing a moderate growth pace during July and August. Under this surface, there are signs of a slowdown in discretionary consumer spending that warrant investor attention.

Published eight times a year, the Federal Reserve Beige Book serves as a key report in which each Federal Reserve district compiles firsthand information. This process involves gathering insights from bank and branch directors, conducting interviews with influential business contacts, economists, market experts and various other sources.

Consumer Spending: Cause For Concern?

The report spotlights a concerning trend in some districts where consumers appear to have dipped into their post-pandemic savings, increasingly resorting to borrowing to sustain their spending patterns. This shift in behavior could have significant implications for the broader economy, and could weigh on companies belonging to the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund XLY.

Auto Sales: Deceptive Indicator?

Although new auto sales expanded in many districts, this isn’t necessarily indicative of robust consumer demand. Instead, this growth is primarily attributed to improved inventory availability, rather than a surge in consumer interest.

Job Growth Softening

Nationwide, job growth remained subdued, leaving questions about the overall health of the labor market and its potential impact on future consumer spending. The August jobs reported revealed that U.S. businesses added 187,000 nonfarm payrolls in August, trending below six-month average. The unemployment rate ticked higher from 3.5% to 3.8%.

Read also: Fed Scrambles To Revise 2023 Projections As US Economy Surges Beyond Expectations

Housing Challenges

The construction of affordable housing units faces obstacles due to elevated financing costs and rising insurance premiums. “Nearly all Districts reported the inventory of homes for sale remained constrained,” according to the Beige Book. This underscores the persistent hurdles in the housing market, which could have ripple effects on real estate investments and related industries, such as the Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund XLRE.

Rising Consumer Delinquencies

Bankers across various Fed districts reported an increase in consumer loan balances, but there’s also a concerning uptick in delinquencies on consumer credit lines. This complex scenario indicates a rising trend in borrowing but raises worries about borrowers’ capacity to meet their obligations.

Inflation Fades

Regarding inflation, the Beige Book reveals an overall deceleration in price growth, particularly in manufacturing and consumer goods sectors.

Read now: Investor Jitters Rise: US Services Sector Sends Puzzling Signals in August

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