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Beige Book Sees 'Weak' Conditions

The Federal Reserve's periodic survey of economic conditions in 12 metropolitan areas said, however, there were signs of improvement in some areas.

Areas across the country are reporting "weak," "soft" or "subdued" business conditions, the

Federal Reserve's

periodic survey of economic conditions said Wednesday, though there are signs of stabilization or improvement in some cities.

The Fed's so-called "Beige Book," which provides anecdotal evidence of economic conditions in 12 metropolitan districts across the U.S., said reports were broadly affected by sluggish consumer spending, high commodity costs, a slow-down in manufacturing and soft real-estate markets.

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Even New York, one of the strongest real-estate markets in the country, has shown weaker demand for both residential and commercial mortgages, "widespread declines" in refinancing and higher delinquency rates.

Businesses have been hurt as consumers buy just the necessities and high energy prices further gnaw at their bottom lines. Layoffs have been widespread, except in districts rich in natural resources, where oil drilling and mining are supporting local job markets.

The regional economies of Cleveland and St. Louis have declined further since the last Beige Book report in late July, though Kansas City and Dallas have improved. Conditions remained weak in Atlanta, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Richmond, Va., while the Minneapolis area was described as "stagnant."

Boston and New York showed signs of stability, though not in every sector.