Fed Says Economy Growing Modestly In Most Regions

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

The economy grew modestly in much of the nation this year, helped by increasing auto sales and a strengthening housing market, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its periodic business survey.

Modest growth was reported in five of the central bank’s 12 districts, and five others reported moderate expansion in the Beige Book, an economic snapshot published eight times a year.

The Boston and Chicago districts reported slow growth for the period covering January and much of February, before the start of automatic federal budget cuts.

Overall, manufacturing improved modestly in most areas of the country.

The housing market also continued to improve. “Residential real estate markets strengthened in nearly all districts, and home prices rose amid falling inventories across much of the country,” the Fed said.

Despite the expiration of the payroll tax break on Jan. 1, consumer spending expanded in most of the country. But higher taxes and gas prices held back the growth of retail sales in several regions, the Fed said.