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Fed's Beige Book Shows Widespread Concerns Over Oil's Impact

The standard modest or moderate growth comments of the Fed's typically boring Beige Book were awkwardly interspersed with a narrative-interrupting 45 mentions of concerns about oil's price plunge impact...

 

The Dallas District indicated that growth slowed slightly during the reporting period and that several contacts expressed concern about the effect of lower oil prices on the District economy.

The Dallas District noted that office leasing activity remained strong, but one contact noted a slight pullback in demand from oil and gas firms.

Demand for oilfield services fell in the Eleventh District. Declines were concentrated in the Permian Basin as firms moved away from traditional vertical drilling, but the Eagle Ford and other oil basins in the District also saw a slight drop off in activity. Outlooks for the first half of 2015 are very uncertain and significantly weaker than in the prior reporting period, with firms expecting anywhere from a 15 to 40 percent decline in demand for their services.

The Kansas City and Dallas Districts reported that demand for oilfield services decreased, while the Atlanta District reported that growth in the supply of crude oil and natural gas continued to outpace demand growth.

Oil drilling activity in the Kansas City District declined, and contacts expect that District's energy sector to slow further in response to lower energy prices.

Cleveland -  Our contacts are fairly optimistic and expect moderate to strong growth in 2015, though some expressed concern about weakening foreign economies and a decline in the price of oil.

However, a sustained decline in oil and gas prices may pose some downside risk to drilling and production, and it is uncertain what the effect will be on hiring and wages in the near term. Overall pricing for materials and equipment is down slightly during the past six weeks. Capital spending is projected to decline in 2015.

Atlanta - Supply of crude oil and natural gas continued to outpace demand, leading to high inventory levels across the Gulf Coast. Industry contacts in the energy sector reported that the downturn in the price of oil has influenced their outlook and strategic planning for 2015, including a heightened focus on cost management, more prudent investments, and faster, more efficient drilling techniques. Exploration and production firms shared plans to continue drilling operations across the Gulf Coast and in Louisiana in 2015, though they intend to approach projects more cautiously. The same goes for oil service companies in the region, which are evaluating cost reduction strategies if low energy prices are sustained.

Chicago - Banking contacts noted the fall in oil prices as a source of medium-term uncertainty for business lending, with downside risk to loan quality for firms in the oil supply chain.

Minneapolis - Lower oil prices led to an overall slowing in hiring in the energy producing regions of North Dakota and Montana.

Oil and gas exploration activity decreased in late December compared with a month earlier in Montana and North Dakota.

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But apart from that - unambiguously good.