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Reports suggest Fed will not raise interest

Most parts of the country managed to enjoy moderate economic growth in the late fall despite troubles in the housing market and the automotive industry.

The New York and Richmond, Va., Federal Reserve districts reported that growth picked up, while the Atlanta region described activity as "mixed," the Fed said in a report released Wednesday. The Dallas district said growth had ebbed from earlier, higher levels.

The survey is based on information supplied by 12 regional Federal Reserve banks and collected before Nov. 20. This snapshot of economic health will figure into discussions at the central bank's next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 12.

Many economists predict that the Fed will again hold interest rates steady, sticking to a strategy first used in August, when policymakers voted to take a break from their two-year-long rate-raising campaign.

The central bank's survey comes one day after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke struck a largely positive tone that the economy should be able to weather the strains of the housing slump and weakness in the auto sector.

Outside housing and autos, economic activity remains solid, he said. "Overall, the economy is likely to expand at a moderate pace going forward," he said.

The Fed survey found that consumer spending - indispensable to the economy's good health - advanced. Manufacturing activity was generally positive overall. And, the jobs market remained healthy, with workers' wages growing moderately.

On the shopping front, "despite continuing softness in automobile and housing-related sales, most districts reported that consumer spending increased during October and early November, and the retail sales outlook for the holiday season was cautiously optimistic," the Fed survey said.

At factories around the country, most districts saw good activity, the Fed report said.