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US economy growing across country: Beige Book

WASHINGTON--The U.S. economy is now growing all across the country, recovering at a “moderate” to “modest” pace after brutal winter weather, the Federal Reserve said in a report said Wednesday.

“All twelve Federal Reserve Districts report that economic activity expanded,” said the Fed's latest “Beige Book” report, based on a survey of economic conditions in recent weeks.

That marked an improvement from the previous Beige Book, released on April 16, when two districts — Cleveland and St. Louis — reported a decline in economic activity as the economy was emerging from a first-quarter contraction of 1.0 percent.

The May Beige Book said growth was described as “moderate” in seven Fed districts and “modest” in five. Activity in the area around Kansas City slowed slightly.

“Overall, this report is consistent with our expectation of a pick-up in growth in the second quarter after a weather-related contraction in Q1,” said Cooper Howes of Barclays in a research note.

The May report, covering a survey period through May 23, will be used at a monetary policy meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on June 17-18.

The FOMC is expected to continue to pare another US$10 billion from its asset-purchase program aimed at supporting growth, taking it to US$35 billion a month.

Consumer spending, the engine of two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, grew at a “moderate” pace across almost all districts, the report said.

“Although improved weather generally gave a boost to business, lingering wintry weather in the Northeast continued to weigh on sales in parts of the Boston and New York districts,” it said.

There was “brisk growth” in vehicle sales overall. Sales of new vehicles were “robust” and continued to outshine sales of used cars and trucks.

Several districts noted “particularly strong” demand for auto loans, including Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco.

Non-auto retailers reported mixed results, the report said. Cold and wet weather was somewhat of a drag in the Boston and New York districts.

A number of districts noted that the late Easter holiday this year, combined with the late arrival of warm weather, had pushed back the spring shopping season.

Tourism was viewed as “fairly strong” in much of the country, including in New York, Boston and Atlanta.

Nonfinancial services had mixed performances, while banking and financial services saw loan demand strengthen on the whole.

Manufacturing, the key element of U.S. industrial production, increased in all 12 districts, improving from “most” districts in the last report.

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