WASHINGTON -- The economy grew modestly in California and the West 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 an additional four of the central bank's 12 districts, and five others reported moderate expansion in the so-called 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.
Manufacturing activity "appeared to tick up" in California and the eight other western states that are part of the Fed's San Francisco district. Production of commercial aircraft and parts expanded, with weaker demand for military aircraft.
Overall, manufacturing improved modestly in most regions of the country.
The housing market continued to improve, with strong demand in construction in the west and other regions.
"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.