Saturday, December 4, 2021

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank continues to believe that inflation will ease

 The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has released a summary of economic conditions in the Southeast U.S. ahead of the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting on December 14-15, 2021. 

According to the Atlanta Fed, expectations remain that price pressures will ease in 2022. For the 12 months ending in October, the Atlanta area saw inflation rise by 7.9 percent, the largest 12-month increase since 1982. 

Prices. “Nonlabor costs continued to increase, and inputs such as raw materials, the availability of which remained exacerbated by supply chain disruptions, rose significantly. Several contacts reported that costs of freight and construction materials increased multiple times over the last year. Pricing power was strong, though contract negotiations were resulting in shorter terms. Most contacts expect cost pressures to ease steadily over 2022 but remain above pre-pandemic levels. The Atlanta Fed's Business Inflation Expectations survey showed year-over-year unit costs were relatively unchanged in November at 3.6 percent. Year-ahead expectations increased to 3.3 percent in November, up from 3.1 percent in October. Both measures have increased sharply over the last nine months” 

In other matters, the bank found strength in several parts of the regional economy.

Housing and Construction. “Although still strong, housing demand moderated further from the record highs experienced over the past year. Nonetheless, the recent uptick in mortgage interest rates led to an improvement in residential sales, spurred by homebuyers' expectations that interest rates will rise further. On a year-over-year basis, home prices increased sharply in markets like Atlanta, Nashville, and central and south Florida.” 

Manufacturing. “District manufacturers continued to report healthy demand over the reporting period, with several noting record sales. Lead times for components were extended as supply chain interruptions persisted, hampering production for some firms. Most manufacturers anticipate stronger sales over the next 6-12 months; however, lingering labor shortages, rising input costs, and disrupted supply chains could challenge firms' ability to meet this demand.” 

Transportation. “Transportation activity remained robust over the reporting period. District ports reported continued growth in container volumes, noting that customers were buying safety stocks of inventories, citing a "just in case, rather than just in time" approach. However, containers were slow to move off port due to a lack of chassis and trucks.” 

Banking and finance. “District banking activity remained steady. Financial institutions experienced stronger consumer and residential mortgage loan growth, and improved CRE loan demand. Although margin pressures remained due to the low interest rate environment, interest income rose as loan demand strengthened. Deposit levels were stable and remained elevated. Asset quality was unchanged with loan losses and net charge-offs still near historical lows." 

Agriculture. “Agricultural conditions remained mixed. Most of the District remained drought free. Agriculture producers indicated supply chain issues and labor scarcity are putting pressure on margins. On a year-over-year basis, production forecasts for the District's corn and soybean crops were up while rice, peanuts, cotton, and sugarcane forecasts were down. The USDA reported year-over-year prices paid to farmers in September were up for corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, cattle, broilers, eggs, and milk.” 

Beige book reports for all the Federal Reserve banks are available here.

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