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50 shades of Beige Book

By Sheyna Steiner · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Between late February and early April economic activity expanded at a "moderate pace," according to the latest Beige Book from the Federal Reserve. That's an improvement from the March report, which classified economic growth as "modest to moderate."

This week's Beige Book reflected relatively buoyant conditions across the country, with most sectors in most areas reporting either no change to conditions or some improvement since the last Beige Book.

Manufacturing is up but defense-related industries are down

In most areas of the country, manufacturing has maintained or improved. Residential construction has spurred some of that growth in some areas, including Philadelphia, Montana and Dallas, where there was increased demand for wood and wood products.

Tight defense budgets took a bite out of military and defense-related industries.

Cars chug along; real estate and construction do well

Auto sales have "remained strong or increased moderately" since the March report.

Nearly all of the 12 districts reported improvements in residential real estate. In Boston, for instance, homebuyer demand is high but inventories are low. That city, along with Richmond, Va., and New York report that multiple bids on homes for sale are happening more regularly. Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Mo., Dallas and San Francisco all say that home prices are rising. More good news: Some areas also report a decline in the number of distressed properties.

Jobs and money could be better

The job market in most areas was reported to be unchanged or slightly improved. Highly trained or skilled workers are in high demand in many areas. Wage growth remains subdued, with upward pressure said to be modest. Prices were also reported to be stable in the majority of districts.

The rate-setting committee at the central bank meets April 30 and May 1. At the meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee will use the Beige Book and other economic data to evaluate the state of the economy and monetary policy.

Follow me on Twitter: @SheynaSteiner

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Senior investing reporter Sheyna Steiner is a co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book written by Bankrate editors and reporters. It's available at all the major e-book retailers.

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