The recession is ending and the US economy is finally growing again.
That’s the message implicit in the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of businesses around the country, which found economic activity stabilizing or improving in most regions.
All but one of the Fed’s 12 regions indicated economic activity either was “stable,” showed “signs of stabilization” or had “firmed,” the Fed’s survey said.
The one exception was the St. Louis region, which reported that the economic decline in the area was “moderating.”
Businesses in most Fed regions said they were “cautiously positive” about the economic road ahead. The survey, known as the Beige Book, does not include precise figures.
Analysts predict the economy is growing in the current quarter, which ends Sept. 30, at an annual rate of 3 percent to 4 percent.
That’s mostly because businesses, which had slashed investments during the recession, are spending more.
Auto sales have been lifted by the government’s recently ended Cash for Clunkers program. Manufacturing and the battered housing market, which led the country into recession when it collapsed, have also shown signs of improvement.
The problem for the economy is that the expected growth this quarter comes mainly from the auto companies and other manufacturers, which are refilling their depleted stockpiles.
Those inventories had dwindled as factories and retailers sought to bring what they had more in line with reduced sales. Any robust growth in the economy might be short-lived if shoppers don’t step up their spending.
The survey’s findings will figure into discussions when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues meet on Sept. 22 to Sept. 23.
The Fed is expected to keep interest rates at record lows, probably for some time, to help nurture the recovery.
“There are presently some signs that the economy is stabilizing and even reviving in certain areas, despite mixed signals,” Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said in a speech in Texas.
The market for homes is still weak — though it flashed some signs of improvement. The number of foreclosure-related filings — including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — remains 18 percent higher than a year ago.
There was plenty of bad news in the survey. In the commercial real estate market, demand stayed weak and construction fell in all parts of the country. And the job market was still sickly all over the nation.
The nation’s unemployment rate, which stood at 9.7 percent last month, could top 10 percent this year.
Fisher, of the Dallas Fed, called for “uncomfortably high unemployment” as businesses keep cutting costs.