Beige Book shows US economy stays strong despite rate hikes

A survey by the US Federal Reserve shows that the country’s economy remains strong despite a spate of interest-rate hikes aimed at taming inflation.

The Fed released its latest Beige Book on Wednesday. It’s based on interviews with businesses in the central bank’s 12 districts.

The report says overall economic activity increased slightly in early 2023.

Six districts reported little or no change in activity since the last report in January. Six others described expansion at a modest pace.

The report says consumer spending generally held steady. But a few districts reported moderate to strong growth in retail sales during what is typically a slow period.

Fed officials say high inflation and steeper interest rates continued to reduce consumers’ discretionary income and purchasing power in some districts. They also note rising credit-card debt.

The survey indicates fairly strong travel and tourism activity in most districts, while labor market conditions continued to be solid.

The Fed is trying to curb inflation with a rapid pace of rate hikes. Yet recent economic indicators are showing that the moves are failing to keep a lid on rising prices.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell vows to continue the tightening. But policymakers have to maintain a balance between cooling the economy and preventing a recession.