SCOREBOARD: Beige haze

Investor caution continues to reign, with a more optimistic Fed report failing to cause a ripple.

The Fed’s beige book (a collection of anecdotal reports from business leaders) suggests that "national economic activity expanded at a modest to moderate pace,” through late November and December, which is a more optimistic report than what we saw through most of 2011. We’ve seen from other partial indicators that consumer spending has picked up and this was confirmed anecdotally in this report, "reflecting significant gains in holiday retail sales.” Manufacturing was seen to have expanded and demand strengthened for non-financial services. The main weakness noted was obviously in the residential and commercial real estate space, where activity remained sluggish. That said, financial institutions did note a pick-up in loan demand from business.

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