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CONFIDENTIAL (FR)

CURRENT ECONOMIC COMMENT BY DISTRICT

Prepared for the
Federal Open Market Committee
by the Staff

April 14, 1976

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARYDistrict-New York page 3
page i
First District-Boston page 1
SecondDistrict-Philadelphia page 7
Third District-Cleveland page 10
FourthDistrict-Richmond page 14
Fifth District-Atlanta page 17
Sixth
SeventhDistrict-St. Louispage 20
District-Chicago
EighthDistrict-Minneapolispage 23
Ninth District-Kansas City page 26
Tenth
page 29
Eleventh District-Dallas page page 35
Twelfth District-San Francisco32

SUMMARY*
[Asterisk: Prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.]
Most District reports indicate the recovery continues to rest largely
on the strength of consumer spending.
retail sales since late March.

In contrast, Boston notes waning in

Numerous reports suggest that inventory

liquidation in trade, steel, and certain types of capital goods has run its
course, although businessmen are cautious about building stocks.

Capital goods

continues to be a source of uncertainty, although scattered signs of improvement
are noted.

Several reports suggest broad based recovery in capital spending

will not occur until later in 1976 or early 1977.

Demand for single-family

housing is strong throughout the country while multifamily and nonresidential
construction is generally weak.

Crop plantings are described as ahead of

schedule in key agriculture regions of the country, but wheat and fruit crops
may fall short of last year's harvest because of adverse weather.

Business loan

demand remains sluggish throughout the country, while consumer installment loans
and mortgage loans are strong.
The recent surge in consumer spending is broadly based.

Auto sales and

"big-ticket" items are reported to be selling well and exceeding expectations,
according to nearly all District reports.
being less price conscious.

New York describes the consumer as

Atlanta reports tourism is "booming" on the east

coast of Florida and advance bookings for central Florida are heavy.

Several

Districts commented that retailers are bullish with respect to prospects
through 1976.
Tight control seems to keynote comments concerning retail and manufacturing
inventories.

Higher consumer spending has yet to be translated into higher

inventories.

Retailers are apparently cautious with respect to building

stocks and they are more likely to err on the low side, although a large
department store chain will apparently boost its inventory.

Low inventories

for controls, motors, and timber have strengthened orders for those products,
while tire production has been boosted because of an anticipated work stoppage
in the rubber industry as well as low stocks relative to sales.

Manufacturers'

stocks are still excessive, according to the Richmond survey, but the latest
survey conducted by Philadelphia indicates that about one-half of the respondents plan to build their inventories over the next 6 months.

Chicago notes

beginnings of inventory buildup of purchased materials and components, while
New York expects cautious rebuilding of inventories that will accelerate with
recovery in capital goods.
Manufacturing activity continues to strengthen, despite the lack of thrust
from capital goods.

Forecasts of steel output for 1976 are being adjusted

upward as a result of completion of inventory liquidation and better than
expected auto, truck and appliance production, according to Chicago and
Cleveland.

Atlanta reports allocation of certain types of steel in the third

quarter is likely.

Considerable uncertainty and caution mark

respect to capital goods.

comments with

New York and Boston see little evidence of recovery

while Chicago, Cleveland and Richmond see some pickup in orders for nonelectrical equipment and machinery.

Cleveland reports machine tool orders

continue to rise gradually, while higher than expected orders for printing
equipment, bearings, and certain types of construction machinery have led to
upward revision in forecasts for those industries.

A broad pickup in capital

goods is not expected until late 1976 or early 1977, according to Chicago and
San Francisco.
Construction continues to be marked by strong demand for single-family
housing.

Multifamily housing and nonresidential construction remain weak

throughout much of the country.

Demand for new single-family housing appears

strongest in the Southwest, the Midwest, and Southeast.

In other areas,

however, the market appears strongest for existing houses, and only limited or
moderate recovery in new housing is reported.

Multifamily construction remains

depressed, although scattered positive signs are appearing in some areas.
There is very little evidence of a pickup in industrial construction, and
St. Louis reports only scattered increases in activity in nonresidential
construction.
Reports from agricultural areas suggest conditions are favorable despite
drought and an early freeze that could affect crop output.

St. Louis,

Minneapolis and Richmond report spring planting is ahead of normal in several
areas.

St. Louis describes prospects for the winter wheat crop as "excellent."

although Kansas City expects output this year will be off by about 20 percent
from last year.

Expected increases in spring wheat production coupled with a

large carryover of stocks from the last crop year are expected to offset some
of the decline.

Kansas City expects that expansion of red meat supplies during

the second half of 1976 will constrain livestock prices, despite recent
strengthening.

Pork and beef output is expected to be about 2 to 3 percent

above 1975 levels.
Weak business loan demand is continuing throughout the country, but
consumer and mortgage loans have been strengthening in several Districts.
Philadelphia reports that some banks are more aggressively encouraging
customers to use existing lines of credit, while some larger banks in the
St. Louis District are offering loans at below the prime rate to larger
business customers.

Bankers in Philadelphia do not expect loan volume to

increase until the third or fourth quarter.

Sluggish loan demand is asso-

ciated with ample corporate liquidity and rate spreads between the prime rate
and commercial paper, according to San Francisco, St. Louis and Kansas City.

FIRST DISTRICT - BOSTON

The directors of the First District are unsettled by recent developments.
The strong performance of retail sales has waned in the past few weeks, while
new orders placed with capital goods manufacturers have remained weak.

Con-

sequently, the business outlook has lost some of the post-Christmas glow.
Overall, the recent data present a mixed picture, but the directors emphasize
that their attitude is still positive on the whole—their forecasts, however,
are scaled back to less optimistic levels.
Retail sales have been disappointing since the latter part of March.

In

Connecticut, trade volume has not held up as well as businessmen had hoped.
For that State, retailers report "poor" to "fair" consumer response.
Massachusetts, a similar softness is evident as well.

In

A director, whose retail

business has remained relatively strong, commented that he is concerned about
inventories, even though he believes that the opportunities for growth are good.
He reported that his buyers' order placements are higher than they should be,
especially in view of continued favorable vendor performance.

According to

his analysis, manufacturers are still attempting to recoup 1973 sales levels
and attain high levels of capacity utilization.
Manufacturing output has begun to fall in several areas of New England.
Responding mainly to weaknesses in the new orders for capital goods, layoffs
have increased and average weekly hours have fallen in Connecticut.

The

durable goods industries, especially machine tools, have yet to participate in
the recovery.

Most firms which are maintaining levels of production are

completing backlogged orders essentially.
Mortgage business is beginning to recover, but other categories of loan
demand generally remain stagnant.

Bankers report that the mortgage activity is

heaviest for higher priced existing units.

The mortgage interest rate may fall

another 1/4 point, but lenders expect no dramatic price cutting on this front.

Variable rate mortgages are being tested in a variety of areas, and, for the
most part, they are written at interest rates 50 basis points below similar
conventionals.

Similar to California contracts, they guarantee the initial

rate for 1 year and subsequently rates may change by 25 basis points every 6
months.
Professors Eckstein, Houthakker, and Samuelson were available for comment
this month.

Houthakker found the pickup in M^ growth "somewhat reassuring" in

that it increased the probability of a sustained recovery.

He was not alarmed

by the reported size of the Teamster settlement but was concerned about the
increases in the weekly commodity spot prices.

If loan demand strengthens, a

small rise in short-term rates would be in order.

Eckstein said the economy is

recovering somewhat faster than had been expected, mainly because of better
progress in curbing inflation.

While he agreed with the Chairman's view that

the progress in prices may be a brief respite, the recent favorable experience
still constitutes a part of the total record.

Because money aggregates "have

ceased to give guidance," according to Eckstein, "there is no choice but to
look at interest rates."

It would be a "grave error to keep interest rates

low for most of 1976 and to raise them dramatically in 1977."

Instead, the

Federal Funds rate should begin a gradual ascent of about 25 basis points each
quarter.

Samuelson also urged "thinking hard" about the current level of

interest rates.

The Fed should be prepared for the possibility that the

economy will be stronger than had been forecasted.

In that event, it might be

wiser to permit short-term rates to begin to ease upward even though this
would be likely to terminate the downward drift in long-term rates.

SECOND DISTRICT - NEW YORK

A steady recovery continues to characterize the business outlook, according
to the views expressed by Second District directors and other business leaders
who were contacted recently.

Consumer spending remains strong; business inven-

tories are down to levels where some rebuilding may be required to keep in line
with sales; capital outlays are still sluggish but are generally expected to
pick up; and residential construction appears to be strengthening.

On the

darker side, the District unemployment picture remains bleak.
All indications point to continued strength in consumer spending.

The

president of a nationwide chain of department stores reported that retailers
were generally optimistic, 1976 is expected to be a good year and there is
nothing on the horizon "that might hurt business this year."

He felt that

consumers were being less price conscious, and reported that higher price items
were selling well.

The vice-chairman of a multinational electrical products

firm noted strength in the sale of consumer durables, and expected such sales
to remain strong throughout 1976.

An economist for a multinational nonferrous

metal producer noted that despite the stepped up consumer buying, such outlays
have not kept up with the rise in consumers' real income, opening prospects
for further growth in the pace of consumer spending.
expressed by several bank economists.

Similar sentiments were

Regarding the District retail sales

picture, the president of the nationwide chain mentioned above stated that his
firm's New York City area stores have been doing well, "as well as anywhere
else."

While sales at large New York City department stores during March were

only about 5 percent above March 1975, in part reflecting the later Easter
date this year, area merchants expected sales during the March-April period to
substantially exceed those of last year.

An upstate banker reported that

sales in his area continued strong, while the Buffalo branch directors reported
that, after a sluggish start, spring consumer buying in Western New York had

"come on strong," especially during the last days of March and early April.
Larger retail stores were reported to be doing particularly well.
As in recent months, respondents felt that the continued strength in retail
sales had found its counterpart in the termination of downward adjustments in
business inventories, and in emerging evidence that the rebuilding process was
getting underway.

Among others, a business economist stated that "retail stocks

are obviously too low" as a result of a greater than expected volume of sales,
and that manufacturers and wholesalers will also have to be adding to inventories
to keep up with sales growth.

Another observer, a financial economist, felt that

with consumer spending running ahead of expectations, some businessmen found it
difficult to avoid a drop below desired levels in their stocks of certain products in strong demand.

The consensus, however, was best summed up by the

Buffalo branch directors who felt that businessmen have learned to live with
lower inventory-to-sales ratios through improved inventory management techniques
but that, with mounting confidence in the economic outlook, these businessmen
were cautiously rebuilding inventories.

These directors expected such re-

building to accelerate as spending for capital goods increased.
Regarding business capital outlays, several bank economists and other
respondents reiterated the view expressed in recent months that these outlays
could be expected to pick up as business activity continued to expand.

However,

as yet, there is no concrete evidence that a significant pickup has gotten
underway in this sector.

Senior officials of two nationwide retail firms

reported that their firms maintained a cautious and "selective" attitude towards
the opening of new outlets.

The president of a machine-tools producer reported

a substantial rise in inquiries by businessmen, but little increase in actual
orders.

Similarly, the official of the electrical product firm reported

heightened interest in bidding, but that this interest has not been translated
into "action," and indeed

that his firm's backlog of orders for industrial

equipment actually was off.
Reports were mixed regarding the current construction picture, but on
balance suggested some improvement.

Unrented office space in New York City

was reported to have declined about 8 percent over the past year.

A business

economist stated that the current moderate recovery in the housing industry
should continue through this year and next, with mortgage money readily
available and with demographic pressures and the pent-up-demand for housing
built up during the 2 years of recession providing momentum for steady gains in
housing starts.

Similarly, a financial economist pointed to the strong jump in

residential contract awards in February as auguring strength in the construction
not only of single family homes, but of apartments as well.

The Buffalo

directors reported that major builders of luxury class homes in Western New
York were doing a "brisk business."

One director pointed to the increasing

demand for building lots as indicating a probable future strengthening of
construction and the directors in general felt that the availability of mortgage
money in their area was sufficiently adequate to promote substantial further
improvement in home building.

On the more restrained side, the chairman of a

large New York City bank reported that construction of commercial structures
and of condominiums continued sluggish and could be expected to remain so over
the near term.

On the basis of his firm's weak sales of plumbing material,

the official of the nonferrous metal firm felt the demand for new homes remained
lackluster, while several upstate directors reported continued weakness in the
building of low to moderate priced homes.
The District unemployment picture generally remained bleak but there were
indications of a slight improvement.

The unemployment rate (not seasonally

adjusted) for New York City edged down to 12 percent in February from 12.2
percent in January, and for New York State to 10.9 percent from 11.1 percent.
These rates had continued to increase in January.

A director associated with

an automotive product firm reported that his firm's output and employment
were well ahead of pre-recession levels, reflecting the improved demand for
automobiles.

The local labor market, however, continues very slack; for

example, a major Buffalo area food processor who announced openings for 200
workers received 3,000 job applications on the first day.

THIRD DISTRICT - PHILADELPHIA

Business conditions in the Third District have improved for the second
month in a row.

Retailers continue to experience strong sales, manufacturers

report higher levels of new orders and shipments, and the factory workweek
has lengthened.

However, job gains in manufacturing have been slight and

inventories are unchanged from last month.

The outlook for the longer term in

manufacturing is for additional expansion and more robust hiring.

The market

for existing housing is reported to be very active, although only limited
recovery is taking place in new construction.
is still weak.

Bankers report that loan demand

On the price front, reports of higher costs are more widespread

than last month.
District manufacturers, responding to the latest business outlook survey,
report that the level of economic activity is substantially higher this month.
Almost 60 percent of the businessmen surveyed report an improvement in general
business conditions.

This is the second month in a row that one-half or more

of the respondents have indicated gains.

Half the manufacturers also report

specific gains for new orders and shipments.

At the same time, inventories,

which increased in March, show little change from last month's levels.
are up in the fabricated metals industry but down in chemicals.

Stocks

Despite expanded

output in manufacturing (which holds equally for durables and nondurables), job
gains have been small during the past month.

The average workweek, however,

has lengthened somewhat.
The outlook in manufacturing for the next 6 months is for additional
expansion.

Of the executives polled, 8 out of 10 expect a higher level of

economic activity by October.

Almost three-fourths anticipate an increase in

either new orders or shipments.

At the same time, close to half the respondents

plan to add to their inventories over the period.

Job openings are expected to

pick up:

half the respondents plan to hire additional employees, and 3 out

of 10 anticipate a longer average workweek.

An increase in spending for

plant and equipment is projected by 40 percent of those polled, about unchanged
from last month.
On the price front, 46 percent of the manufacturers polled indicate they
are paying higher prices for their supplies,
when 35 percent were reporting increases.

This is up from last month,

At the same time, 20 percent report

higher prices for their finished products—about the same as in March.

Higher

prices are expected to accompany the expansion over the next two quarters.
Four-fifths of the respondents expect to be paying more for their supplies, and
three-fifths anticipate charging more for their finished products.
Retail executives paint a bright sales picture, with current volume above
their expectations.

One merchant, who was looking for sales to be about 10

percent above year-ago levels, notes that the gain is closer to 14 percent.
All of the executives contacted report that most lines of merchandise are
selling well.

Men's fashions are singled out as exceptionally strong, and one

retailer notes a resurgence in big-ticket items such as refrigerators and other
appliances for the home.

The outlook for the next few months is "very bullish,"

but there is general agreement that the major sales momentum for 1976 will
occur in the first half of the year.

Calendar factors and an expected pickup

in inflation later in the year are cited as the reasons for this assessment.
No significant movement in prices is reported, and one retailer notes that
his prices "are not much higher than a year ago due to a conscious effort to
be competitive."

He adds that, by the end of 1976, prices charged in his

stores will be about 5 percent above year-end 1975.

Inventories are said to

be in "fine shape," and no problems with deliveries are reported.

Retailers

note that they are receiving 90-95 percent of their deliveries on time.

Area

merchants indicate that they encountered no problems as a result of the recent

Teamster's strike.
The residential housing market in the area is reported to be brisk for
existing housing, but only limited recovery is taking place in new construction.
Work reportedly is beginning again on unfinished multifamily housing in the
region, but little new construction is anticipated in the near future.

One

MSB official notes that savings inflows have been very strong and that mortgage
rates have declined.

He quotes the best rate at his institution currently as

8 3/4 percent, with the top of the range at 9 1/4 percent.

This executive sees

the possibility of further declines in rates before they begin moving up
gradually around midyear.

He adds, however, that the rise in rates through

the end of 1976 will have little dampening effect on the housing market.
Area bankers report that loan volume remains flat.

All of the executives

contacted indicate that consumer loans are inching up, but they don't consider
this movement significant.

It's agreed that business loans are weak, and more

frequent contacts with customers to try to generate more use of existing lines
of credit are reported.
loan demand.

Bankers are mixed in their forecasts of a pickup in

One contact notes that, with inventory accumulation taking place,

loan volume should begin to move up by midyear.
in loans by the fourth quarter.

Another projects an expansion

This official feels that, if businesses want

to share in the recovery, they can't continue to reduce receivables and
inventories much longer.

All of the bankers contacted feel that short-term

interest rates are at their floor; but there's uncertainty as to when rates
will begin to move up, since earlier expectations were for rates to be
increasing by this time.

FOURTH DISTRICT - CLEVELAND

Directors, businessmen and economists in the Fourth District are
increasingly optimistic about the recovery and have been raising their
estimates of output and sales for 1976.

Retailers and producers of durable

goods are encouraged by a surge in sales and profits in their industries.
Capital goods and steel, among the lagging sectors in the District, show signs
of reviving, and contacts in those industries report orders and shipments have
strengthened in recent weeks.

Liquidity of several retailers, manufacturers

and thrift institutions has improved sharply in recent quarters.
Retailers and producers of consumer goods are especially encouraged by the
sustained rise in consumer spending for automobiles and household goods as well
as soft goods.

A director with a consumer household products firm reported

that sales have been rising faster than expected, and another director indicated
that strong demand for materials for home improvement and repairs boosted
earnings to their highest level since 1954.

Several banker-directors reported

installment loan demand is strong, especially for the purchase of large cars.
A financial officer for a major discount store chain reported sales and profits
for each month this year were well above levels a year earlier.

An economist

with a soaps and detergents firm noted a recent pickup in several consumer
products that had been lagging the recovery in consumer spending.

Reports

from auto dealers in the Youngstown area, which has one of the highest employment rates in the District, indicate March sales of new cars rose faster there
than in the nation, in contrast to a year-over-year decline in both January
and February.
Despite widespread strength in consumer goods sales, inventories
apparently will be kept under tight control.

A retailer noted their inventories

are adequate but not much higher than late last year.

One producer, while

reporting inventories of some product lines are probably lean, is apparently

willing to err on the conservative side.

In contrast, inventory demand for

automotive tires has ballooned, partly because stocks are considered too low
relative to sales and partly as a hedge against a strike in the rubber
industry.
Capital goods producers are also more encouraged over prospects for
recovery in their industry because of better than expected incoming orders.

A

director, with an electric typewriter firm, reported that orders increased more
than expected last month and that their new copiers introduced recently have
been well received by the trade.

An electronics equipment and printing press

producer reported that incoming orders during the first quarter of 1976 were
the highest on record and that orders for all types of printing equipment are
now recovering.

Orders last quarter were 50 percent ahead of shipments, and

will require a boost in output as well as employment in the months ahead.
Orders for bearings turned up from a broad range of customers.

An economist,

usually one of the most bearish in capital goods, recently scaled upward his
estimates of real capital spending from a decline to virtually no change from
last year.

Upward revision of estimates for shipments of excavating machinery

and cranes, from an expected 15 percent pickup last fall to the latest 20-25
percent, was reported by another capital goods producer in the District.

This

expected improvement reflects more rapid completion of liquidation of excavators
at the distributor level as well as higher spending for construction by some
State and local governments.

Machine tool orders continue to climb, although

the year-old rebound has recovered only about half of the drop in orders that
occurred during 1975.
Steel inventory liquidation has been virtually completed, and little if
any change is expected this quarter.

Inventories of flat rolled products are

likely to be built and offset some further liquidation of steel held by firms
in capital goods industries.

An economist with a major steel company revised

upward his 1976 forecast for steel shipments and production because auto
and truck production is running stronger than their earlier expectations.
Another firm reported that delivery schedules for some of its lines are
lengthening from 2 weeks to as much as 2 months.
Improved liquidity and debt structure for a variety of financial and
nonfinancial firms is increasingly mentioned by directors and other respondents
in support of a more optimistic view of economic activity.

A banker-director

termed as "very liquid" an office equipment firm that had been considered
financially weak in recent years.
long-term markets.

His corporate customers are borrowing in

Another banker-director reported banks and thrift institu-

tions in his area are highly liquid.

S§L's in the District generally report

continued strong growth in deposits, and several are eager to cut rates paid
on passbook deposits in view of high liquidity.

A major discount store chain

in the District that was near bankruptcy in 1975 has boosted its current ratio
from 1.7 to 2.1 in recent quarters, and cut back its long-term debt by at
least 10 percent.

A large producer of consumer products, whose usually large

excess working capital was run down in 1974-1975, has again sharply boosted
its liquid asset position to a point where it can finance all of its capital
spending plans for 1976.

An official with a major machinery firm reports a

dramatic shift in its financial situation from a net borrowed position to a
surplus over the past 12 to 15 months, partly because of record cash flow last
quarter.

For some other firms, concerns seem to have shifted from working

capital shortages and financing problems to building inventories and increasing
production schedules.
The rising optimism that seems to permeate the attitude of businessmen in
the District is tempered somewhat by inflationary wage settlements.

One source

indicated that the total increase in compensation in the first year of the
Teamsters contract amounted to 15 to 20 percent.

A director viewed as "not

too explosive11 his firm's recent labor settlement for a 9 percent increase in
compensation.

Rubber works are expected to settle for less than the Teamsters,

although a cost of living catch-up is expected to be a result of a settlement,
with a short strike likely to affect at least one of the major tire producers.
Recovery in employment in the District remains sluggish and continues to
lag the nation.

The small improvement that has occurred has been mainly in

rubber and plastics, trade, and fabricated metals.

Employment in steel,

machinery and construction industries has tended to stabilize in recent months,
while earlier gains in automotive industry have been held down by recent layoffs
at the GMC Lordstown plant, where compact cars are assembled.
over 2,000 workers were placed on indefinite layoff.

Since late March,

FIFTH DISTRICT - RICHMOND

Responses to our April survey of Fifth District business conditions
indicate a more general improvement in the level of activity than at any
time in the past year.

A majority of manufacturing respondents report gains

in shipments, new orders, and backlogs of orders in March, with increases in
employment and in hours worked as well.

Finished goods stocks apparently

declined further while stocks of materials are reported to have stabilized or
increased slightly.

Responses suggest, however, that some further reductions

in inventories may be necessary to bring them to desired levels.

Reports of

excessive plant and equipment capacity are less common than in recent months,
but on balance current capacity remains in excess.

Retailers report increased

sales, with 80 percent of respondents indicating gains in sales of big ticket
items relative to total sales.

Retail inventories are now apparently in line

with desired levels despite little change in March.

Both manufacturing and

retail respondents remain optimistic, expecting further improvement in the
level of business activity over the next six months.

Fifth District banks

continue to experience unusually slack business loan demand, but increased
loan demand from consumers has resulted in a modest expansion in bank loans
in recent weeks.
Among manufacturers responding to our survey this month, nearly 55 percent
report increases in shipments and new orders in March.
at a majority of manufacturers.

Backlogs also were up

Inventories of finished goods continued to

decline in March, but there was apparently some buildup of materials stocks.
In any event, manufacturing respondents viewing current inventory levels as
excessive outnumber those viewing them as inadequate by more than two to one.
One textile manufacturer reported being in the process of reducing inventories
to an all time low.

Among individual industries, survey responses suggest textile and apparel
manufacturers continuing to outperform most others, although improvements were
much more widespread this month than last.

Non-electrical equipment and

machinery manufacturers reported improvements in business as did manufacturers
of furniture and fixtures.

Survey responses suggest that demand continues to

lag in the chemicals industry.
Nearly one-third of the manufacturing respondents reported increased
employment in March, and over one-third reported working an increased number of
hours per week.

Prices, including employee compensation, continue to rise,

but there is no apparent change in the trend of recent months.

Almost three-

fourths of the manufacturing respondents expect the level of business activity
nationally and in their individual market areas to improve over the next six
months, while two-thirds expect increased production within their own firms.
Retailers reported a larger volume of sales and a higher proportion of
sales of big ticket items than in recent months.

Increased demand for consumer

loans and improved sales of big ticket items are consistent with reports from
many parts of the Fifth District confirming a significant improvement in
consumer confidence and willingness to buy.

Inventories at retail were

essentially unchanged in March and are apparently in line with desired levels.
One-third of the retailers surveyed now view their present number and size of
outlets as inadequate.

Over 80 percent expect the level of business activity

nationally, regionally, and in their own firms to improve further over the
next six months.
Bankers in several District states have reported noticeable increases in
consumer lending activity in recent weeks.

Improved consumer confidence is

cited as an important factor contributing to this increase.
business loan demand remains unusually depressed.

Conversely,

While there is some evidence

of lending gains with regional business customers, loans to locally important

industries, for example textiles, continue to be soft.

Commercial and

industrial loans at Fifth District weekly reporting banks are now at their
lowest level since early 1974.

One weekly reporting bank expects no signifi-

cant increase in its commercial lending at least until fall.
District farmers' cash receipts from farm marketings in January were 4
percent below a year earlier, with a sharp drop in crop receipts more than
offsetting a significant gain in receipts from livestock and livestock products.
By comparison, the nation's total cash farm receipts recorded an 8 percent gain
in January.

Commercial peach and apple crops in Virginia and the Carolinas

sustained varying amounts of freeze damage in mid-March.
light to severe.

Losses ranged from

Land preparation for spring planting is generally ahead of

schedule; corn planting is proceeding ahead of last year's pace; tobacco
transplanting is underway; and small grains are in good condition.

SIXTH DISTRICT- ATLANTA

Improvement continues in the Southeast, except for some parts of the
construction industry.

Branch directors find the region strengthening steadily.

Sales of automobiles and trucks continue to grow rapidly.
vacationers continue to provide major boosts to the region.
demand and prices are occurring.
the steel industry.

Businesses serving
Changes in lumber

Possible shortages are perceived in parts of

Despite some improvement in condominium and mobile homes,

the construction industry's condition remains mixed.
Branch directors' comments indicate steady improvement and a generally
optimistic outlook; diverse indicators are cited to support this view.

A

Jacksonville director notes that the recession seems to be disappearing and that
air cargo shipments are up.

Another states that optimism remains strong and

cites a 30 percent increase in advertising outlays over last year.

A director

from Miami finds steady, if not vigorous, improvement supported by record
consumer spending; he notes a 53 percent growth in tonnage at Dade County
Seaport, with increases from last year in all classes of goods.

A New Orleans

branch director cites increased industrial development activity in Mississippi
as a sign of an improving business climate, but a second director notes a
wait-and-see attitude on the part of central Louisiana businessmen concerned
about the strength and duration of the upturn.

Birmingham branch directors

cite strengthening in textiles and apparel, increasing industrial expansion,
and extremely good truck transportation business as indicators of continued
improvement.

As evidence of a continuing steady recovery, Nashville directors

note continued gains in March retail sales in connection with new shopping
centers and downtown area renovation.
Motor vehicle sales continue to grow
Southeast.

rapidly throughout most of the

Auto sales increased sharply in February and March.

Weak sales

of imported models and strength in sales of full-size and luxury domestic

models also persisted.

Substantial gains from last year, as well as a confident

view of the future, are widely reported.

Truck sales have been equally vigorous.

Recreational vehicle sales have increased, according to reports from Alabama and
Florida.
Tourist attractions continue to lead the Southeast's recovery.
"Grand Ole Opry" is completely sold out through November.

Nashville's

Motels on the east

coast of Florida are completely full, and tourist businesses are "booming."
Miami is also enjoying an exceptional season.

Gains in attendance at central

Florida tourist centers continue, and advance bookings are heavy.

Vacationers

are reportedly less budget conscious this year, and expenditures per person
have risen.
Developments in industry include a leveling of demand for all kinds of
lumber, reflecting the completion of inventory rebuilding by lumber yards
throughout the country.

Prices remain firm but are no longer increasing; they

remain near the high of late 1973 and early 1974.

Another report expresses

concern regarding sharp price increases which are likely to result if timber
harvests from national forests are curtailed as a result of environmental
restrictions imposed by legislative and judicial bodies.
A firm which services offshore oil wells fears that continued production
increases in autos and other steel-using industries may cause a recurrence of
shortages of pipe and other tubular goods.

Inventories are being increased.

An executive with a major steel company expects steel products to be on
allocation by the middle of the third quarter.

A new steel mill nearing

completion in the Jackson ville area will provide a partial offset to steel
shortages.

The electric furnace mill will begin production in midsummer of

steel billets and by yearend expects to start manufacturing reinforcing bars.
About 200,000 tons of steel products are expected to be produced annually.

Conditions in the construction industry appear to have brightened somewhat,

Single-family home building and sales remain the major area of activity;

with some exceptions, nonresidential construction is sluggish.
ment is noted in Nashville's condominium market.

Slight improve-

In the Miami area, condominium

sales have shown little change in the past 3 months, but the first sign in 3
years of reduced inventories has appeared.
stabilized or declined in several areas.
pattern.

Apartment vacancy rates have
Mobile home sales show a varied

In one area of Florida, sales are still falling, while elsewhere,

sales have increased.

Rising sales of mobile homes in Alabama are attributed

to customers' inability to afford conventional housing.

Financing of mobile

home sales is creating difficulties as a result of banks' unfavorable loss
experience.

SEVENTH DISTRICT - CHICAGO

The business expansion in the Seventh District has broadened and gathered
momentum in the past month to a greater extent than most observers had expected.
Increased retail sales and reversals of inventory liquidation programs are
largely responsible.

Substantially higher profits of "better quality" have

played a large role in improved business psychology.

Consumers are influenced

favorably by stronger job markets and slower price inflation.

No significant

shortages of materials and components are noted as yet, but lead times are
lengthening moderately.

A broad pickup in capital goods does not appear likely

until late in the year.

Transactions in existing dwellings and various other

types of real estate have been "phenomenal," and some residential builders are
beginning to reactivate dormant programs.
The Teamsters' negotiations apparently were settled with only minor,
temporary walkouts in this District, and these were largely confined to the
Detroit area.
evaluate.

The cost of the Teamsters' 3-year package is difficult to

A Detroit union official calls the contract "the best we ever got,"

and says many over-the-road drivers paid by the mile could get $10,400 more per
year at the end of 3 years, boosting some into the $30,000 to $35,000 range.
This 40 to 50 percent boost assumes a 6 percent per year rise in the CPI under
the new unlimited COLA.

Without COLA increase, the 3-year contract is said to

call for a 33 percent rise in costs, with large boost for pension contributions
as required by the new law.
Some knowledgeable analysts in the District are very concerned about a
serious rubber industry strike starting next week.

For the first time, three

or four of the largest producers may be struck simultaneously.

The various

issues, including a COLA, may not be resolved without a walkout that might
last 60 days.

Output of autos and trucks probably would be affected in 30 to

40 days as stocks of tires are limited.

Many other essential industrial

products would be cut off by a rubber strike.

Unlike the Teamsters' settlement,

the rubber contract eventually decided upon is likely to set a pattern.
The main issues in the UAW contracts coming up this fall are not clear,
but General Motors has suggested reevaluation of the company-paid medicaldental program which now costs $150 per worker per month and is rising rapidly
even without further liberalization of benefits.

Chicago lithographers recently

agreed to forego a scheduled wage boost in order to slow the migration of
printing and graphic arts, but such reports are unusual.

Chicago teachers

reluctantly agreed to an 8.5 percent salary cut to be achieved by shortening
the current school year.
Virtually all consumer hard goods, especially autos and most appliances,
are selling well again.

Sales gains at general merchandise stores for March are

very impressive in view of the much later date of Easter this year.

General

merchandisers are pleased with the improvement in their profit margins, which
reflect lower carrying costs of inventories as well as higher volume.

Food

retailers, however, are having a difficult time maintaining their profit margins
in the face of rising costs of labor, transportation, fuel, insurance and other
overhead.

Increases in these expenses also plague private schools, hospitals,

and other institutions.
The increase in sales of autos and light to lower-medium weight trucks
has exceeded the hopes of most industry analysts.
models are inadequate to meet sales potential,

Inventories of popular

The increase in sales has been

concentrated in the compact and intermediate-sized with the subcompacts and
standards losing ground relatively.

Better gas mileage on domestic models and

relatively improved price relationships have helped reduce the market penetration of imports.

Sales of larger trucks have remained at a very depressed

level, but output is being expanded to meet an expected rise in demand coming
about midyear as truck freight continues to increase.

Purchasing agents' reports for both Chicago and Milwaukee were very
promising for March with significant gains in new orders, output and, most
recently, employment.

More firms are reporting increases in order backlogs,

and many are beginning to rebuild inventories of purchased materials and
components.

Producers of basic materials such as steel and cement are boosting

forecasts of output for the year.

Steel imports are at a lower rate than most

observers had expected, perhaps because foreign producers are reluctant to
match U. S. prices.
Manufacturers of capital goods components report continued improvement in
orders for such products as controls and motors.
bones" inventories of distributors.

Partly this reflects "bare

Some utilities indicate they are moving

ahead on deferred capital expenditure programs as financial positions have
improved and certain regulatory obstacles have been resolved.

Announcements

of expanded capital expenditure plans in other industries are rare.

Capacity

is currently ample in most types of manufacturing, transportation, trade, and
finance and vacancy rates in commercial buildings are high, both downtown and
in the suburbs.
Despite much talk that "the average family can't afford a home any more,"
transactions have been at a very brisk pace both in preoccupied units and in
new housing.

Single-family homes are moving at prices 50 percent higher than

5 years ago in good areas.

New building is beginning to revive, but mainly in

single-family developments and townhouses.

EIGHTH DISTRICT - ST. LOUIS

Economic activity in the Eighth District continued to expand in recent
weeks according to reports from District businessmen.

Consumer spending

remains a strong feature of the recovery as retailers report improved sales.
Manufacturing activity, with the exception of capital goods, continues to
improve, and employment has maintained its upward course since mid-1975.
Construction activity is also strengthening.

Reports indicate the beginning of

an upturn in commercial construction in addition to further expansion in residential construction activity.

Bank loan demand has increased somewhat, and

mortgage loan demand has decreased significantly.

In the agricultural sector,

land preparation and planting are currently underway for a large acreage of
crops.
Consumer spending remains strong, and retailers are generally optimistic
about prospects for the rest of this year.

Department store sales have

registered gains in recent weeks and are well above year-ago levels.

Most

lines of department store goods are selling well, including big-ticket items
such as appliances and furniture.

One appliance dealer in St. Louis noted a

definite pickup in sales in the past 60 days.

Automobile dealers report brisk

car and truck sales in March and a continuation of this rising rate of sales
into early April.
Manufacturing activity has gathered momentum as orders and production
registered increases in recent weeks.

A representative of a local steel

manufacturer reports an acceleration in the pace of new orders among all
categories of steel products.

Manufacturers of shoes, appliances, televisions,

and clothing report improvement in their sales.

Industries closely tied to

residential housing, including a manufacturer of metal connector plates and
paints and coatings, also note continued gains.

A representative of the

aircraft and space industry reported that although commercial demand for

aircraft is sluggish, defense contract work is strong.

The only negative

report was from a manufacturer of boxboard which experienced a drop in demand
in recent weeks, after a strong pickup in January and February.

However,

this drop was thought to be temporary.
Residential construction remains a leading sector in the current business
recovery.

Residential housing permits have increased recently in all the major

District cities.

The bulk of this activity has been in the construction of

single-family dwellings, although some gains were noted in multi-family units.
Apartment construction in some areas is still hampered by relatively high
vacancy rates in existing apartments.
Other types of construction, which heretofore had been depressed, are now
showing initial signs of recovery.

One builder, who last month gave a very

pessimistic outlook for nonresidential construction, reported a flourish of
new project proposals in recent weeks.

These projects included several

shopping centers, hospitals, distribution facilities, and restaurants.
absent from these reports are industrial projects.

Notably

Several industrial projects

that were only partially completed at the beginning of the last recession remain
unfinished.

A few industrial projects, including some chemical and food pro-

cessing plants, however, are reported to be underway.
Employment gains have been a strong feature in the current recovery.
Higher employment levels and lower unemployment rates are reported in most
areas of the District than in the previous month.

In some cases, employers

report difficulty in filling certain types of jobs.
Loans have improved somewhat in recent weeks.

Larger banks, however,

report that the prime rate as officially stated is somewhat above the actual
lending rate to some customers, and above the rate on other sources of business
funds such as commercial paper.

These banks report that some are offering

rates at below the official prime rate to larger business customers.

Mortgage

loan demand has continued to strengthen and thrift institutions continue to
experience large increases in savings deposits.
Farming operations are reported to be ahead of normal for this time of
year, reflecting better than average weather conditions.
that farmers will plant more acres overall than last year.

Reports indicate
Considerable

uncertainty exists about the amount of rice acreage to be planted in view of
sharply lower rice prices.

In general, farmers are expected to shift some

acreage to corn and cotton and away from soybeans. Wheat crop prospects in
the District remain excellent.

NINTH DISTRICT - MINNEAPOLIS

The recovery appears to be gaining momentum in the Ninth District economy,
though weak spots still exist.

Consumer spending is strong, unemployment is

falling, manufacturing sales are improving, and residential construction
activity may be on the upswing.

However, manufacturing employment is up only

marginally from the low of last summer, and both nonresidential construction
and business loans outstanding at commercial banks are slightly below year-ago
levels.

In the District's agricultural areas, farming operations are ahead of

normal, cattle prices are up sharply from late March, and inventory financing
of grain stocks remains substantial.
Consumer spending in the District is up from last year.

Data available

through January puts retail sales about 15 percent above a year ago, and surveys
of District retailers taken in late March indicate that the pace of sales has
remained strong since January.
well.

Appliances and home furnishings are selling

Auto dealers' sales increases have been especially large, with the bulk

of the increases coming in the intermediate and luxury models.
Resort owners also say that business was good over the winter months
despite less than normal snowfall; most expect a strong tourist season this
coming year.
Despite sales gains, retailers continue to maintain tight control over
inventories; however, suppliers have been able to meet short delivery
schedules.
In the manufacturing sector, sales appear to be above a year ago in both
dollar terms and in real terms.
gains in coming months.

In addition, manufacturers expect larger sales

The average workweek in manufacturing has been

increasing since late autumn; however, manufacturing employment is only slightly
above the recession low of last summer.

One director, whose firm is a major

manufacturing concern, feels that slow employment gains are partly due to the

high costs of adding new employees.
Overall wage and salary employment in the District is now above a year
ago despite lower employment in manufacturing and construction.

Gains have

come in the trade, services, and government sectors of the economy.
Employment is up in all regions except Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where
unemployment in the copper industry is still substantial.

Initial claims for

unemployment benefits in the District are now down to the lowest level in
about a year and a half.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates have fallen

sharply since October.
Data are not yet available on first quarter residential construction,
though the higher level of permits in 1975's second half provides potential
for an improved level of starts.

A director whose firm supplies materials to

the housing industry thinks that recent construction activity has been stronger
than anticipated.

The value of nonresidential construction awards is still

below last year, as is overall construction employment.
At savings and loan associations, both new mortgage lending and commitments
outstanding are down for. 1975's fourth quarter, but are substantially above a
year ago.

Total bank lending is increasing even though business loans are at

about the same levels as last year.

The rate of increase in consumer time and

savings deposits at banks has fallen in recent weeks; deposits at SfJL's continue
to run about 15 percent above last year.
Farm work in the District is currently several days ahead of normal.
Seeding of spring wheat and oats is about half completed in some areas of
Minnesota, and corn planting may get under way by mid-April.

Subsoil moisture

is slightly below desirable levels in many areas, but the shortages are not
so great as to hinder crop development.
Carryover of last year's grain by farmers is till greater than normal,
and inventory financing has boosted farm lending at rural banks.

Lending by

Production Credit Associations also appeared strong in the first quarter.
Cattle prices have turned up sharply in recent days after having
dipped to a seasonal low in late March.

Dairy prices continue to move

seasonally lower, but are above last year.

Hog operations appear profitable,

and one director says that in his locality all livestock operations except
cattle are undergoing expansion.

TENTH DISTRICT - KANSAS CITY

Buyers of materials for Tenth District manufacturers are generally
optimistic about the economic outlook citing fairly stable prices, plentiful
supplies, and growing demand for their finished goods.

Nonresidential con-

struction contractors, on the other hand, complain of being in a recession of
their own.

On the farm scene, bad weather has reduced the expected wheat yield,

but farm prices have still declined because of expanding supplies of livestock.
The demand for bank loans was weak in March, reflecting declines in borrowing
both by businesses, national and local, and by consumers.

Demand deposits con-

tinued to rise in March, but time deposits fell as banks ran off their large
certificates of deposit.
Nonresidential construction business is souring, say some contractors.
"Where there used to be maybe three bidders on a job, there are now sometimes
15, and they are going cheap, cheap—below our cost."

Another observed, "At

least the prices of our materials are stabilizing, except for plywood, which has
gone up quite a bit already and will go up more soon."

A third asked, "Why

can't the government free up all that authorized spending and give us a break.
We're in a recession."
Purchasing agents report still plentiful supplies and stable prices for
most materials.

Inventories are being built cautiously, if at all.

Some buyers

are quite concerned about the outlook for prices, while others expect relatively
little change.

Said one, "Things are getting a little tighter, and prices are

making noises again."

Among the noisemakers mentioned were polyethylene, paint

pigment, certain metals, and other chemicals.

"I don't expect all of the 8 per-

cent increase in a large oil company's list for polyethylene to stick," remarked
an agent.
said.

"We haven't been paying list anyway for the past few months," he

A buyer for a farm supply business credits a warm winter and spring for

a 30 percent increase in volume over last year.

"The availability of fertilizer

in unlimited quantities at two-thirds of last year's price has helped business
too," he said.
Farm prices declined 1.5 percent for the month ended March 15, continuing
a general downtrend that began last fall.

Despite the sluggish behavior of

farm prices over the last 6 months, due largely to expanding supplies, the
average price level in March was 12 percent above a year ago.

Hog and cattle

prices have strengthened during the last 2 weeks and may continue to rise if
supplies taper off somewhat.

Still, recent reports suggest that red meat

supplies—especially pork--will be expanding during the second half of 1976,
which should keep a reasonably tight lid on livestock prices during that period.
For the year as a whole, pork and beef output is expected to be about 2-3 percent above 1975 levels.
The District's wheat crop continues to be plagued with weather problems,
although some precipitation has been received in the last month.

It is expected

that 1976 production levels in the District will fall considerably short of the
725 million bushels produced last year.

A recent crop report on four states in

the District indicated that output will be down about 20 percent from last year.
However, the supply picture for the nation will be cushioned by probable
increases in spring wheat production and a larger ending carryover of reserves
from the 1975-1976 marketing year.
Tenth District bankers report that loan demand weakened in March.

Business

loans were down sharply as borrowing by both national and local customers
declined.

National accounts have turned to the open market for funds due to

the favorable rate on commercial paper relative to the prime rate.

The slow-

down in local business borrowing appears to have reflected the strong internal
liquidity at some local companies and their reluctance to build up inventories.
One bank reported a rise in local business loan demand from gas-energy related
businesses.

Bankers also reported declines in consumer lending despite strong

auto loan demand.

Real estate and farm loans increased moderately.

Bankers reported strong demand deposit inflows.
especially those of individuals, continued to rise.

Savings deposits,
Time deposits declined

as banks continued to run off their large certificates of deposit due to
slack loan demand.

ELEVENTH DISTRICT - DALLAS

With the exception of a few problem areas highlighted in this report,
the economic recovery is progressing reasonably well in the Eleventh District.
Evidence of the expanding economy can be seen in most labor market statistics.
Total employment has increased by 100,000 workers in the five-state area in
the past year, and the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.2 percent.

Only in

Oklahoma has the jobless rate increased, while in Arizona the rate has dropped
3.5 percentage points.
since last June.

In Texas, insured unemployment has declined 39 percent

Moreover, initial claims for unemployment insurance are now

at the lowest level since October 1974,

The recovery in manufacturing in Texas

is reflected by the extended workweek for production workers, which, at 41.0
hours, equals the annual averages for 1972 and 1973.
The only manufacturing industry in Texas that has not participated in the
economic recovery is primary metals.

Output by the industry has dropped nearly

a third since September 1974, but the decline now appears to be leveling off.
A survey of steel companies in the industry indicates most firms are hoping for
a slow pickup in business later this year, but this outlook depends on the
performance of two major markets—construction and oil field equipment.

Some

steel companies note the market for materials used in small residential
construction projects has firmed.

However, total output will not be affected

substantially until nonresidential construction begins a comeback.

But even

stronger demand for construction materials may not help the steel industry
because as much as three-fourths of the current production of some firms goes
into oil field equipment manufacturing which is now beginning to soften.

In

addition, aluminum output continues at the low level established last summer.
Domestic drilling activity has taken a turn for the worse.

After reaching

a 14-year high in late December, the total number of active rotary drilling rigs
dropped 16 percent to a 17-month low in March.

A seasonal decline in drilling

is expected in the first quarter of each year; but according to some industry
spokesmen, the cutback was also in response to a rollback in the average price
of domestic crude oil to $7.66 a barrel—down from the January high of $8.43.
Many drilling contractors expect the decline to slow and drilling to begin a
seasonal upswing in the last half of the year.

However, the future is clouded

by proposed legislation that is unfavorable to the industry.

Despite the

sharp drop in rig count, more wells were completed in the first quarter of 1976
than in the comparable period last year.
Multi-family construction in the Eleventh District remains severely
depressed by high interest rates and rising construction costs.

As a result,

a growing shortage of apartment units, already acute in some District cities,
has caused some major changes in the rental market.

In Houston, for example,

where the occupancy rate is 95 percent, tenant resistance to fast-rising rents,
discontinuance of lease contracts, and payment of their own utility bills has
become virtually nonexistent.
The tight rental market is, however, boosting the demand for new singlefamily homes.

Sales of new houses are near record levels, according to a survey

of the District's largest tract builders.

Demand is strongest for homes priced

under $30,000, and most are being sold to apartment dwellers.

In addition, new

developments are mushrooming in suburbs 15 to 30 miles from the central business
districts because fears of gasoline shortages and the inconvenience of commuting
have been overcome.
Custom builders specializing in more expensive homes are also experiencing
brisk sales.

Roughly half the new homes sold in Dallas this year have been

priced over $40,000.

And in El Paso, demand for homes costing more than $50,000

is the strongest in several years.
None of the builders contacted considered their inventories of unsold
homes excessive.

In fact, a common response was that inventories were "very

low."

In Dallas, for example, the largest homebuilder said that there were

2,660 new homes on the market last quarter and about 1,750 were sold.

He

considers inventories tight if he carries less than a six-month's supply of
homes.

Builders also report that as a result of the short supply of homes,

most recent sales have been "futures"—houses not yet completed.

And they

have responded to this bullish development by substantially increasing their
plans for additional starts.
Farm income in the Southwest will be higher this quarter than a year ago.
Prices received by Texas farmers for all agricultural products are up 17 percent, on average, from last year.

With higher average cattle and calf prices,

total livestock receipts will be bolstered by increased marketing of cattle
from feedlots and increased numbers of grass-fed cattle and calves slaughtered.
Receipts from hogs, milk, and broilers may also rise.

But total crop receipts—

reflecting very weak rice and soybean prices—may remain near year-earlier
levels.
Prices paid by farmers for most production items have increased 8 percent
in the last year.

Costs of feed, fuel and motor supplies, farm machinery,

building and fencing materials, and farm supplies should continue to increase
moderately, while irrigation costs in areas of West Texas and Eastern New
Mexico will be significantly higher.

Fertilizer prices, however, are below

year-earlier levels, encouraging extensive application of crop land and
improved pastures where adequate moisture is available.

TWELFTH DISTRICT - SAN FRANCISCO

In the opinion of our directors, business has been expanding at a moderate
pace; and although the pace has not been labeled disappointing, it appears to
be taking longer than usual for the pronounced strength in consumer spending to
feed back into inventory demand.

At some point, the business community might

be convinced that the trend in consumer spending will be sustained and a rapid
inventory build-up will take place.

Price trends are being watched closely.

Current evidence of lowered inflationary expectations is confined to agricultural
products and some specific industries like pulp and paper where demand has
remained weak.
last year.

Wage package demands, however, are reported to be lower than

Plans for new plant and equipment spending that had been shelved

during the recession are being dusted off but are being inhibited by environment protection studies and anxiety over price trends.

Some bankers appear

concerned over the continuing low level of business loan demand.
Evidence of lower inflationary expectations was reported by several
directors, although the general consensus appears to be that wage and benefit
packages will be up about 10 percent this year.

The directors seem loath to

give a long-term interpretation to current lower food price levels and lower
quotes for such items as fertilizer, corrugated cartons, burlap, brass and
titanium and are cautiously awaiting price reaction to an anticipated secondhalf swelling of demand.

Those directors connected with natural gas production

seem most convinced that inflation will recur as a very serious problem.

More

precisely, it is anticipated that price increases will continue at a modest
rate for the next 3 to 4 months, but inflationary pressures during the latter
half of 1976 will increase with food, energy and wages the major areas of
concern.

The inflation rate for the year is expected to be in the neighborhood

of 6 percent, down significantly from 1975.

For the most part, industry in the far west appears to be marking time.
New orders for commercial aircraft have been quiet although steady, and the
overall pulp market is still soft.

Activity in timber and wood products has

picked up recently as wholesalers replenish low inventories in the light of
increased residential housing activity.

Other industries such as chemicals,

steel and pleasure boat building report steady expansion.

Nonferrous mineral

activity, notably aluminum, remains depressed, but the value of coal output
is up about 25 percent.
Some capital formation in the form of modernized equipment is being put in
place, but sights are not currently being raised.

Environmental impact studies

have, in some cases, slowed the rate of new construction.

A further inhibition

to power plant construction is the fact that rate structures which provide the
basis for securing funds in the marketplace must be approved by the public
service commission.

Many California projects appear to be on hold awaiting the

results of the June Atomic Energy initiative.
down from a year ago.

Public works construction is

One director from a large west coast bank, however,

reports that there are early signs of renewed general interest in plant and
equipment spending that will become supportive of the recovery late this year
and in 1977.
Cash receipts from farming in 1975 just about equaled 1974 in spite of a
lower price for wheat.

So far in 1976, irrigation has been sufficient to

counter low rainfall, but farmers would suffer if next year's rainfall were
below normal.

Many items used in farming have declined drastically in price

over the last year; fertilizer and insecticide prices have fallen as much as
25 to 30 percent and costs of corrugated cartons and burlap sacks have declined
for the past two packing seasons.
to escalate.

Prices of farm machinery, however, continue

The agriculture industry does not anticipate heavy spending for

expansion this year.

Business borrowing at commercial banks has been lethargic as a result
of abundant corporate liquidity and the prevailing cost differential between
bank loans and commercial paper issues.

Consumer loan and real estate demand

have been very strong, bolstering the notion that the consumer is leading the
way out of the recession.