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Beige Book: Outlook optimistic despite chill factor
WASHINGTON (3/6/14)--The economy continues to grow at a "modest to moderate" with improved conditions in eight of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, according to the Fed's Beige Book commentary released Wednesday.
 
From January to early February, severe winter weather slowed activity in the Northeast districts of New York and Philadelphia. Auto, retail and manufacturing sales were particularly hard hit.
 
Richmond, Va.; Chicago and Minneapolis did report positive sales in weather-related goods, however.
 
The district reports were mixed on loan demand and volume. Analysts at Moody's noted, "Falling mortgage and refinancing applications were among the few areas of weakness reported across districts" ( Economy.com  March 5).
 
Credit quality is improving as delinquency rates tick downward or remain stable.
 
The slower pace in residential housing markets was attributed to the unusually severe winter. Home inventories were low in most districts, and housing prices continue to appreciate.

Commercial real estate conditions continue to improve from the previous report, according to seven of 12 districts.
 
Weather continues to hamper economic forecasts, but the report reinforces the bias that the economic slowdown is short lived, according to Eric Green of TD Securities ( MarketWatch March 5).
 
The anecdotal report was released two weeks before the Federal Open Market Committee's March policy meeting.
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