Fed's Beige Book reports modest economic growth in the fall

The U.S. economy expanded at a modest pace from October through mid-November, according to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, even as the U.S.-China trade war weighed on manufacturers.

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Almost all of the Fed’s 12 districts reported modest growth over the past few months, the Fed said in its region-by-region roundup of anecdotal information known as the Beige Book. The report, prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, was based on information collected through Nov. 18.

"Outlooks generally remained positive, with some contacts expecting the current pace of growth to continue into next year," the report said.

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Overall, employment continued to rise, even as labor markets remained tight, making it hard for employers in some districts to find qualified workers. Plus, several Fed districts reported "relatively strong job gains" in professional and technical services, as well as in health care.

The 16-month-long trade war between the world's two largest economies has continued to cast a shadow on economic growth, with U.S. manufacturing activity weakening and business investment cooling -- a result of firms delaying making decisions because of tariff uncertainty.

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Retailers mentioned higher costs, which contacts in some districts attributed to the rises in tariffs, the Fed said. Some firms said they were limited in their ability to cover higher costs, though a few districts noted that companies affected by the tariffs were more inclined to pass on cost increases to the customers.

Still, consumer spending continued to grow, with increases in auto sales and tourism seen across several districts.

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