Beige Book Paints Pretty Picture

Price pressures ease slightly or remain unchanged.
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The economy continues to expand in almost every area of the country with little or no additional price pressure, the

Federal Reserve

said in its Beige Book update Wednesday.

"Reports from all 12 Federal Reserve districts indicate that economic activity continued to expand in June and early July," the Fed noted. Most regions saw improving retail sales, "moderate to solid" expansions in manufacturing, and good demand for loans, the report said.

"Labor markets generally continued to improve, although hiring in several districts was mixed," the report said. "Skilled worker shortages were reported in several districts, but nearly all districts said wage pressures remained moderate.

"Overall price pressures eased slightly or remained unchanged in most districts, despite substantial increases in energy costs," the report said.

By region, the Fed said, Richmond and Dallas reported a higher rate of economic growth, while Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco reported "solid" expansion. Cleveland said economic growth was better than in the spring, while Chicago described the expansion as "moderate."

New York was the only district to report a slowing rate of growth, the

Fed

said, while Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis didn't characterize the pace of expansion. "Boston noted that locally based retailers were not sharing in the expansion," it said.

As for real estate, residential activity remained "robust overall," although some districts saw cooling. Boston said "housing activity and home price appreciation in Massachusetts moved from 'hot' to 'normal;'" activity in the Manhattan condo market was "less frenzied than in the spring;" while Washington, several Florida markets and parts of Southern California reported an easing from particularly "hot" levels.