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Fed survey says growth holds steady

WASHINGTON Economic growth held steady across the United States from July through late August, as Americans bought more cars and homes and auto factories added workers.

A Federal Reserve survey showed all 12 of the Fed's regional banking districts reported modest to moderate growth. That's roughly the same as the Fed's previous survey of those districts from late May through early July.

Attractive financing options helped boost demand for new cars and trucks in most districts, with many reporting robust sales.

"Housing has remained a bright spot in the recovery, as has the auto industry," said Erik Johnson, senior U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, in a reserach note. "The manufacturing sector looks to be on slightly better footing than was suggested by the previous report, and consumer spending has held up in the face of fiscal headwinds."

Many economists expect economic growth to accelerate slightly later this year before picking up in 2014. But while that may spur a modest increase in job-creation, the unemployment rate is likely to decline only very gradually as people encouraged by the healthier labor market again start looking for work, according to research firm Capital Economics.

The report said that job growth was steady and that hiring in manufacturing improved modestly, especially at auto and auto-parts factories. But the Kansas City and San Francisco districts said federal spending cuts had caused production cutbacks at some defense plants.

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