Fed says U.S. economy continued to post modest growth in Jan-Feb

WASHINGTON, March 6 Wed Mar 6, 2013 1:59pm EST

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) - U.S. economic growth continued to improve gradually in January and early February as consumer spending picked up and the country's battered housing market maintained a broad-based recovery, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

In a cautiously optimistic report from its 12 regional branches, the U.S. central bank also drew attention to stronger demand in the auto sector and for technology and logistics services, while emphasizing that price pressures remained mute.

"Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve districts indicated that economic activity generally expanded at a modest to moderate pace since the previous Beige Book," the Fed said.

U.S. growth slumped to a mere 0.1 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year. But the Fed expects the economy to maintain its gradual recovery, helped by near-zero interest rates and its own massive bond buying program to spur borrowing.

The Beige Book, which draws on the extensive contacts maintained by regional Fed banks with their local business communities, was prepared in this instance by the Kansas City Federal Reserve, based on data collected on or before Feb. 22.