Fed survey: US economy expanding moderately in early part of year, led by consumer spending

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A Federal Reserve survey showed the U.S. economy expanded in all parts of the country in January and February, helped by strong auto sales, a continued recovery in housing and improved job prospects.

The Fed says 10 of its 12 regions reported moderate or modest growth, while Boston and Chicago districts reported slow growth.

Consumer spending increased in most regions, although the gains slowed in many districts and much of the increases were driven by auto sales. Many districts said consumers held back on spending elsewhere because of higher taxes, rising gas prices and uncertainty over the federal budget.

Housing markets showed more strength in nearly all parts of the country, while manufacturing showed modest improvements in most regions.