U.S. factories have raised their prices because of tariffs, although inflation has appeared modest or moderate in most parts of the country, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in its latest report on the economy.
The U.S. central bank also said in its latest “Beige Book” report that the economy appeared to be growing modestly to moderately and that businesses across a number of industries had reported labor shortages.
The report, a snapshot of the economy gleaned from discussions with business contacts in the Fed’s 12 districts between September and mid-October, detailed business worries about the Trump administration’s trade war with China and simmering tensions with other major trading partners.
“Manufacturers reported raising prices of finished goods out of necessity,” the Fed said, adding that the reason given for the price hikes was higher costs for raw materials such as steel, “which they attributed to tariffs.”
Still, the Fed signaled that inflation pressures did not appear very high. “Prices continued to rise, growing at a modest-to-moderate pace in all districts.”
The Fed has raised interest rates three times this year in a bid to keep prices from rising too quickly. It is widely expected to lift them again in December.
President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on imports from a range of trading partners, including China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico, prompting retaliation against U.S. exports.
Among manufacturers in the Dallas Fed’s district, which is largely centered on Texas, the Fed said: “Roughly 60 percent of contacts said the tariffs announced and/or implemented this year have resulted in increased input costs.”
In the Chicago Fed’s Midwestern region, “retail contacts across numerous sectors indicated that they expected consumers to see the impact of U.S. tariffs on imports by early 2019,” according to the Fed’s report.
Despite the trade tensions, the Fed said a tight job market has made it difficult for employers to find qualified workers, including “highly skilled engineers, finance and sales professionals, construction and manufacturing workers, IT professionals, and truck drivers.”
Meanwhile the Fed will consider a proposal that would ease rules for all but the nation's largest banks at an Oct. 31 board meeting, the central bank announced on Wednesday.
The proposal, which has yet to be unveiled, would implement several major provisions of a bank deregulation bill Congress passed in May. Most notably, the law directs the Fed to ease oversight of banks with $100 billion to $250 billion in assets.
The meeting will be cheered by the banking industry, which has been eager to hear from the Fed on how it intends to implement this mandate.
Randal Quarles, the Fed's top regulatory official, said earlier this month the regulatory package could include more relaxed capital and liquidity rules for smaller, simpler banks, as well as fewer "stress tests" of their operations.
Quarles has also suggested tailoring rules for super-regional banks Capital One, PNC and US Bancorp, that sit above the $250 billion threshold but are still much smaller than the largest global banks.
The rewrite of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law passed by Congress in May raised the threshold by which banks are considered "systemically risky" and subject to stricter oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion.
Banks between $50 billion and $100 billion in assets were immediately freed of stricter regulation when it became law.
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