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Fed survey: Economy rebounding, helped by stimulus, vaccines

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve survey has found that the economy was rebounding in late February through early April, helped by billions of dollars in a new round of stimulus payments and the stepped-up rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

The new survey released Wednesday showed that the Fed's business contacts around the country were expressing more optimism about the economy's outlook as activity accelerated.

The survey credited a range of factors, from vaccinations to the payments of up to $1,400 for individuals from the $1.9 trillion relief package that President Joe Biden pushed through Congress last month.


The survey, known as the beige book, will form the basis for discussions when Fed officials meet on April 27-28 to discuss what to do about interest rates.

Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial, said the message from the beige book is that business activity is picking up but "the economy still has a lot of room to strengthen further."

Federal Reserve-Beige Book

In this Dec. 1, 2020, photo, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

While private forecasters have been busy boosting their economic projections for this year, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has continued to stress that the central bank is not close to raising rates. The Fed released projections last month that indicated it will hold off raising rates until after 2023.

The beige book report, based on information from business contacts supplied by the Fed's 12 regional banks, said that manufacturing activity continued to expand, with half of the Fed districts reporting robust manufacturing growth. Those gains came despite supply-chain disruptions in such critical areas as computer chips.

The survey found that the Fed's regional bank in New York is seeing growth for the first time since the pandemic shut down the economy a year ago and that the expansion is "broad-based across industries."

The Fed's Philadelphia regional bank found that demand for goods and services is "on fire" but myriad severe supply constraints are continuing to hamper various industries.

Cleveland reported improvements in the hard-hit hotel and restaurant sectors. Similar improvements were reported by the Fed's Atlanta regional bank, which covers tourist destinations in Florida.

Dallas reported that supply-chain disruptions have led to sharp increases in prices of goods, while the San Francisco district reported that residential construction remains strong.

The Fed survey found that many of its districts are seeing moderate price increases, specifically for materials such as metals, lumber, food and fuel.

The beige book reported that employment growth picked up as economic activity increased. It noted strong job gains in manufacturing, construction, and leisure and hospitality.

In an appearance Wednesday before the Economic Club of Washington, Powell acknowledged rising concerns about inflation following a report Tuesday that consumer prices rose 0.6% in March, the biggest one-month gain since 2012.

But Powell, who has been predicting a temporary spike in inflation this spring, repeated the view that the central bank wants to see inflation rise "moderately above 2% for some time" to make up for a decade when inflation has failed to reach the Fed's 2% inflation target.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Shop Talk

What's new in the business community!

If you know of local business openings or closings, please notify us here.

. Semper Pie, 14 S. Reading Ave. in Boyertown, hosting grand opening with cheesecake and more on May 22. 

. St. Luke’s OB/GYN – Complete Women’s Care, 9 Dave’s Way, in Hamburg, will accept new patients starting May 6. 

. Rolling Hills Recreation mini golf course, 4565 Spring Hill Dr. in Schnecksville, will hold its grand opening May 1.

. The Red Rose Diner, Route 22 in Phillipsburg, has announced that it will close its doors May 2. 

. Pizza D’Oro restaurant on College Hill, Easton reopened on April 21 as Joey D's. The restaurant offers dine-in and takeout options.

. The Da Vinci Science Center announced that Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO, has been named a Take the Lead honoree by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.

. Deliciously Decorated, 143 S. Main St. in Nazareth, will host a grand opening and ribbon cutting 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 8.

· Jack Callaghan's is reopening as Cuzin's Pub and Grill at 2027 W. Tilghman St.

. John L. Walsh will retire as President and CEO of UGI Corporation on June 25, 2021. He will continue to serve as a member of UGI's Board of Directors.

. Bru Daddy's Brewing to launch new restaurant, Blended by Bru Daddy's, on downtown Allentown ArtsWalk. Soft opening is planned for May with grand opening in June.

· BSI Corporate Benefits, LLC (BSI) promoted Valerie (Val) Lewis to Chief Operating Officer. The nationwide employee benefits consulting firm executes cost control strategies to manage their clients’ healthcare costs.

. UPMC Health Plan appoints Dr. Amy Meister as chief medical health and wellness officer

· Center for Vision Loss, a nonprofit in the Lehigh Valley and Monroe County, changes name to Sights for Hope

· PPL Corporation names Gregory Dudkin executive vice president and chief operating officer. Stephanie Raymond will succeed him as president of PPL Electric Utilities.

· New Vision Theatres Tilghman Square 8 will become Tilghman Square 8. Its anticipated opening is in April 2021.

.Genesis Bicycles in Easton has been sold to Trek Bicycle. Genesis' retirement sale starts Thursday, April 1

· European Wax Center to open at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley in summer 2021

· Split Pine Axe Throwing opens at 627 Hamilton Street in Allentown

· Krave 2 Taste opens new location at the Lehigh Valley Mall, next to Verizon. The frappe and smoothie shop will hold a grand opening event on March 27 from 12-3 p.m.

· First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union appoints James Gagliano as new chief experience officer

· New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem announced several promotions: Veronne Demesyeux was named Associate Executive Director; Tina Sargent was promoted to Director of Finance and Administration; and Lisa Myers was named Controller.

. PPL Corporation named Best Place to Work for LGBTQ equality on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2021 Corporate Equality Index. It's the fifth consecutive year PPL has earned high marks on the national report

· GEICO has opened an office in the Broadcasting Square shopping center, 2733 Papermill Road, Suite X3, in Spring Township. Office hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

· Bimbo Bakeries USA has earned the EPA's Energy Star certification for superior energy efficiency at 15 of its bakeries, including the one that produces Maier's Bakery items in southwest Reading's Oakbrook neighborhood.

· Giant to build new, bigger grocery store near current location on West Swamp Road (Route 313) in Doylestown. Construction is set to start mid-March with an anticipated opening date later this year.

· Peeps & Company store at the Promenade Shops of Saucon Valley to close for good


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