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Fed Beige Book lowers pace of US growth to 'slight to modest' from 'modest'

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Fed Beige Book lowers pace of US growth to 'slight to modest' from 'modest'

The U.S. economy grew at a "slight to modest pace" in recent weeks, though manufacturing activity continued to dip as trade tensions weighed on business sentiment, according to the Federal Reserve's latest Beige Book.

The Beige Book, an anecdotal summary of Fed officials' conversations with local contacts, downgraded the overall description of U.S. momentum from its prior reading of "modest" growth.

The report comes as Fed officials weigh whether they should cut interest rates at their next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 29-30. The central bank has lowered its benchmark federal funds rate twice this year, citing slower global growth and persistent trade tensions as two risks clouding the U.S. economic outlook.

U.S. consumers are continuing to provide much of the growth for the country, with household spending coming in at a solid pace in recent weeks, the report found. Non-auto retail sales picked up modestly, and light vehicle sales were "generally robust," while tourism spending rose moderately, and the housing market was largely unchanged.

But manufacturers in some parts of the country said "persistent trade tensions and slower global growth weighed on activity," and the sector continued to edge lower, the report found.

Bankers in many parts of the country said they were seeing moderately higher loan volumes.

"Business contacts mostly expect the economic expansion to continue; however, many lowered their outlooks for growth in the coming 6 to 12 months," the report said.

Employment picked up slightly nationwide on balance, though employers cited a shortage of workers as a "factor restraining hiring," the report said. While fewer orders are prompting some manufacturers to reduce their headcounts, some firms opted for cutting workers' hours instead of laying them off because they "were more concerned about the longer-term availability of workers."

Wages rose modestly in most of the country, particularly among lower-skill workers in the retail and hospitality sectors and higher-skill professional and technical workers. Overall, employers are continuing to hire or retain workers through increasing their nonwage benefits, such as bonuses.

Prices rose modestly in most of the Fed's 12 districts, with tariffs helping lead to higher input prices for retailers and manufacturers. Retailers, though, had "relatively more success" in passing on their higher costs to their customers.