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Federal Reserve's Beige Book Reveals Economy Edging Slowly Higher, Led By Information Technology.

The U.S. economy slogged along in the last eight weeks, posting modest gains in many sectors but hardly robust, according to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, a report entitled "Current Economic Conditions," which was released Wednesday.

The book, which reflects reports from all 12 Federal Reserve districts for a period extending from late February to early April, showed moderate growth in all 12 districts.

Information technology posted a strong gain, while the construction, energy and manufacturing sectors edged higher. Those sectors also reported increased hiring.

Retail spending and tourism, from both leisure and business sectors, increased somewhat in most of the central bank's 12 districts, the report said.

Coal production extended its decline, and agriculture was mixed due to regional variations in weather.

The Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago districts reports mentioned higher medical expenses as concerns.













Most Districts noted increases in manufacturing activity since the previous report.

Particular strength was seen in industries tied to residential construction and automobiles, while several Districts reported uncertainty or weakness in defense-related sectors. Consumer spending grew modestly, and firms in some Districts cited higher gasoline prices, expiration of the payroll tax cut, and winter weather as factors restraining sales growth. Retailers in several Districts expect continued sales growth in the near term. Overall vehicle sales remained strong or increased, but sales of used automobiles declined in some Districts. Travel and tourism expanded across most reporting Districts, boosted by both business and leisure travel.

Demand for nonfinancial services increased at a modest pace, and several Districts noted growth in freight and transportation services. Most Districts said residential and commercial real estate improved markedly since the last report. Home prices were rising in many areas of the country. Loan demand was steady to slightly up in most Districts. Reports on agricultural conditions were mixed, as drought or cold weather adversely impacted some Districts while others reported a strong agricultural sector. Oil and natural gas activity remained robust over the reporting period, with contacts in the Cleveland, Kansas City, and Dallas Districts expecting a rise in activity in coming months, while coal production continued to decline.
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Apr 17, 2013
Words:350
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