Fed reports moderate growth in most of nation

Jim Puzzanghera / Los Angeles Times /

WASHINGTON — The economy grew at a moderate pace in most of the nation this summer as consumer spending rose and the housing recovery continued, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its periodic Beige Book report.

The overview of conditions in the central bank’s 12 regions indicated that economic growth was picking up at the start of the second half of the year. The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first half of the year.

An improving recovery could lead Fed policymakers to start reducing their stimulus efforts this month.

The Beige Book is not a definitive read on economic activity. It relies on anecdotal reports from regional bank presidents and interviews with business people, economists and others.

Eight of the Fed’s 12 districts reported moderate growth from early July to late August, roughly the same as in the July Beige Book. Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco reported modest growth and Chicago said the pace of economic activity in that region had improved.

Consumer spending was up in most districts amid strong demand for automobiles and housing-related goods, such as furniture and appliances, the Fed said. Manufacturing “expanded modestly” nationwide, the Fed said.

And despite rising mortgage rates, residential real estate activity “increased moderately” in most Fed districts and home prices rose.

“Reports from several districts suggested that rising home prices and mortgage interest rates may have spurred a pickup in recent market activity, as many ‘fence sitters’ were prompted to commit to purchases,” the Beige Book reported.

The San Francisco district, which covers California and eight other Western states, reported shortages of construction workers.

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