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Federal Reserve upgrades view of US economy
The Federal Reserve has slightly upgraded its view of the US economy, saying that manufacturing and construction continues to grow.

"Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts suggest overall economic activity expanded at a moderate pace during the reporting period from late February to early April," the Beige Book survey said.

The previous Beige Book, a key input for monetary policy-making, was more tentative, calling growth "modest to moderate" amid concerns of a nascent slowdown due to higher payroll taxes and a cut in government spending.

"Most districts noted increases in manufacturing activity since the previous report. Particular strength was seen in industries tied to residential construction and automobiles," the report said.

Travel and tourism business was also broadly firm across most of the regions, according to respondents to the Fed survey.

However, in a suggestion that the steep federal government "sequester" spending reductions were having an impact, it said that several districts reported "uncertainty or weakness in defense-related sectors".

Consumer spending was up only "modestly", with some evidence that the payroll tax rise, higher gasoline prices and winter weather were to blame.

The jobs situation was unchanged or "somewhat" improved with hiring firmest in manufacturing, home construction, information technology and professional services.

While not backed by data, that picture was brighter than the monthly unemployment and job creation numbers reported on April 5, which showed a paltry 88,000 net jobs generated by the economy in March.

Commercial banks around the country - with Philadelphia an exception - generally reported a pickup in loans to businesses and for homes and cars.

Price increases were generally subdued around the country, the Beige Book said, while the outlooks of respondents to the regular Fed survey "remained optimistic across sectors and districts".

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