WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday found that the U.S. economy held steady during the 16-day partial government shutdown, growing moderately in most regions from October through late November.
The Fed said seven of its 12 banking districts described growth as moderate. Four — Philadelphia, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco — said growth was modest. Boston said its regional economy continued to expand.
Manufacturing strengthened in most districts, helped by more production of cars, trucks and high-tech products. Consumers boosted spending in most regions, and retailers were hopeful yet cautious about the holiday shopping season. Hiring improved in five of the districts; the other seven reported little change.
The Beige Book survey, as it is known, is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered along with other data when the Fed meets next on Dec. 17-18.
Many economists believe the Fed will make no changes to its interest-rate policies at that meeting. They expect the Fed will continue to buy $85 billion a month in bonds, which are intended to keep long-term interest rates low and encourage more borrowing and spending.
But some analysts think the central bank could start to reduce those purchases in December, especially if Friday's report on November employment shows another strong month of hiring.
In June, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed could slow the purchases by the end of the year, if the economy and job market continued to improve. And minutes from the Fed's October meeting noted that members expect data will show gains in the job market and would "thus warrant trimming the pace of purchases in coming months."
Hiring has accelerated in recent months. The economy has added an average of 202,000 jobs a month from August through October, up from an average of 146,000 from May through June.