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Beige Book: Economic Conditions Improved Since Q1 2014

A survey of activity across the United States finds economic conditions have largely improved since the end of the slower first quarter.

In its latest Beige Book, released Wednesday, the Federal Reserve noted economic activity has expanded in recent months, with the pace of growth "characterized as moderate in the Boston, New York, Richmond, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts, and modest in the remaining regions."

Compared to the last report, released in mid-April, growth picked up in the Cleveland and St. Louis districts but slowed in the Kansas City district, the Fed reported.

Wednesday's summary reinforces comments offered by Fed Chair Janet Yellen recently in which she forecast a faster pace of expansion as "financial conditions remain supportive of growth in economic activity and employment." The report will be one of the factors in consideration when Yellen and the other voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee meet in two weeks to decide how to proceed with the Fed's shrinking stimulus efforts.

The central bank reported mixed news in residential real estate, "with some reports of low inventories constraining sales," particularly in the Boston, New York, and Kansas City districts. Activity also softened in the Philadelphia, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and San Francisco regions, the latter of which attributing part of the weakness to "severe weather."

Meanwhile, home prices maintained their upward trend across most of the country, with only Boston reporting slight pullback in prices of single-family homes.

Mortgage lending activity was similarly mixed. The Fed observed increases in residential real estate lending in the regions of Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas, while activity held steady in Atlanta and San Francisco. On the other hand, Cleveland saw a slight weakening in lending, as did Richmond, thanks to a decline in refinancing.

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