Latest Fed survey sees improved economy

The economy kept expanding in all regions of the country in June and early July, helped by strength in consumer spending, a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday indicates.

All 12 of the Fed's regions reported growth, with five — New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco — characterizing growth as "moderate" while the others reported "modest" growth. Boston and Richmond, Va., reported that growth came in at a slightly slower pace than the previous reporting period.


The Fed's survey, known as the "beige book," will be used by central bank officials when they next meet July 29-30 to review interest rate policies.

Analysts expect that the Fed will decide to keep its short-term interest rate at a record low near zero and authorize another reduction in its bond purchases aimed at keeping long-term interest rates low.

The Fed has kept its benchmark short-term rate at zero since December 2008, and many analysts believe the first rate increase is still about a year away.

The beige book survey said that consumer spending had increased in every district, with auto sales generally stronger than other retail sales.

Tourism remained strong, with hotels in the Boston, New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis districts describing room demand as robust.

The report said that many districts reported low inventories of homes for sale and rising home prices. But Boston, New York and St. Louis said that sales were below year-ago levels.

All 12 districts reported job gains, with several districts saying that businesses were reporting difficulties in filling positions for skilled workers. Aside from wage increases to attract certain skilled workers, the districts said that wage pressures remained modest.