The economic report used by the Federal Open Market Committee to evaluate the health of the economy -- known as the Beige Book -- showed the economy "continued to improve, on balance" between October and November.
The news was generally positive and consistent with an economy slowly getting to its feet, but not bounding ahead by any means. Consumer spending was mostly higher, with tourism and business travel stronger. There was some improvement in job growth with a noted hesitation among employers to expand payrolls in any significant fashion.
Despite all the angst at the Federal Reserve about the potential for deflation and nervousness among investors about the inflationary consequences of the Fed's actions, prices remained fairly stable, though input costs such as fuel and agricultural commodities were higher. One trip to the supermarket or the gas pump will tell you that.
Friday's employment report will carry much more weight in the eyes of financial market participants than this Beige Book. Another month of consistent and solid job gains in the private sector will lift spirits, but also interest rates. Mortgage rates are most susceptible to a strong jobs report on Friday.