Fed's Beige Book is more upbeat about economy (by Greg Robb)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Economic conditions improved as 2011 drew to a close, according to the Federal Reserve's latest survey of economic conditions released on Wednesday. The so-called Beige Book survey of Fed business contacts said economic activity increased "at a modest to moderate pace." This rate is an improvement from the mid-November report which said some districts were growing at a "slow" pace. The latest Fed report said holiday retail sales were up "noticeably" over last year. The auto sector was so vibrant that some suppliers reportedly were nearing capacity constraints. The nonfinancial service sector, seen as key to the outlook by many economists, reported stronger demand. Price pressures were described as "quite limited." Wage pressures were also seen as modest given the low level of hiring. The report was based on information collected from late November through December 30.