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WASHINGTON, DC-Two major categories of industrial tenants showed mixed results during the six weeks ending in mid-October, according to the most recent Beige Book from the Federal Reserve. Activity in the transportation services sector declined in in most regions of the US, but manufacturing activity was stronger, says the report, which summarizes input from the 12 Federal Reserve districts.

But even in transportation, there were signs of economic recovery, especially in Chicago where trucking shipments increased, and Cleveland, where freight transport volume in general rose since the end of August. On the other hand, the Atlanta San Francisco and Dallas districts reported a decline in trucking activity, while Kansas City’s was flat, the report says.

According to the report, most districts reported a strengthening in manufacturing activity since the last report was issued at the beginning of September. New York, Richmond, Minneapolis and Kansas City all recorded a noticeable pickup in production, while Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco showed slight-to-moderate increases. Other districts, however, experienced little or no overall increase, though some reported improvements in specific industries. Boston, for example, evidenced stabilization or modest improvement in a few sectors but minimal growth as a whole. Similarly, Dallas reported flat demand overall but pick-ups in the high-tech, food and petrochemical sectors. St. Louis continued to decline, while Atlanta noted moderate declines in orders and production.

Significantly, Boston, Richmond and Chicago reported that year-over-year declines in new orders of housing-related products had abated, while Cleveland, Richmond and Chicago reported substantial increases in automobile and auto-parts production. The latter were attributed primarily to restocking dealers’ and manufacturers’ inventories following the Cash-for-Clunkers program. Stronger demand from the auto sector in turn led to an increase in steel production in Cleveland and Chicago.

Comments on the near-term outlook varied across Districts, with Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Kansas City expecting only slight gains over the next six months, while New York anticipates hiring more workers and spending more on capital improvements. In Dallas, planned projects and routine maintenance are likely to be deferred to conserve capital.

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