Fed’s “Beige Book” paints a bleak picture

The “Beige Book” is out, and the news is dismal. This afternoon the Federal Reserve released its summary of economic conditions in the 12 Federal Reserve Districts (see map above). Based on anecdotal information, reports, and interviews with key sources, the report is issued eight times per year.

The key adjectives used to describe recent economic conditions in those districts were “bleak,” “stagnant,” “dismal,” “sluggish,” “slow,” “dropping,” “falling” and other descriptors for a sharp decline in economic activity across almost all areas and sectors of the economy.

One exception was the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products, where there was continued demand. Also, basic food production was stable.

Here’s the report’s opening paragraph:

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that national economic conditions deteriorated further during the reporting period of January through late February. Ten of the twelve reports indicated weaker conditions or declines in economic activity; the exceptions were Philadelphia and Chicago, which reported that their regional economies “remained weak.” The deterioration was broad based, with only a few sectors such as basic food production and pharmaceuticals appearing to be exceptions. Looking ahead, contacts from various Districts rate the prospects for near-term improvement in economic conditions as poor, with a significant pickup not expected before late 2009 or early 2010.

Guess it’s encouraging the Fed didn’t change the name to the “Black Book.”