The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy was growing at a moderate pace in December and early January, helped by gains in sales of autos and other consumer products, increased factory production and a pickup in tourism in various parts of the country.

The Fed says business contacts in its 12 regional banking districts reported "modest" or "moderate" growth. General merchandise retailers in the New York area reported largely sluggish holiday sales while high-end merchandise in Philadelphia and San Francisco did well.

Payrolls grew in a variety of sectors but significant wage gains were seen only by workers with specialized technical skills.

The report, known as the beige book for the color of its cover, will form the basis of discussion at the Fed's next meeting on Jan. 27-28.