Beige Book report not particularly optimistic

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The economy is continuing to expand, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest report, an update released Wednesday that contained nothing to celebrate, but no reason to panic, either.

The "current report on economic conditions," also know as the Beige Book, described moderate to modest growth across the country. In the Cleveland district, which includes Pittsburgh, the report found the economy was growing more slowly than it had been.

Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., said economic activity has softened and the tone of the current report is less optimistic than Beige Book that was issued six weeks ago.

"The Fed's regional business contacts are not sounding any alarms at the moment," Mr. Edelstein wrote in his analysis of the report. "The latest Beige Book report provides anecdotal evidence to support our view that the economy will continue to grow at a depleted pace this year and next, too modest to generate substantial job gains."

The report out of the Cleveland district noted that manufacturers said production was up slightly from six weeks ago but little hiring was reported in the region. Staffing firms said healthcare and information technology firms had the highest numbers of job openings.

Single-family home construction slowed in the last six weeks. The better news came from nonresidential contractors who said business conditions were good and that inquiries about new construction were strong. They also said financing was more easily available, except for speculative projects.

Drilling for natural gas in the Utica Shale range in Ohio was up with as many permits issued in the first half of 2012 as were issued in all of 2011. Conventional oil and natural gas production was stable in the region with well-head prices for natural gas remaining low.

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Ann Belser: or 412-263-1699.


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