Fed says 12 regions grew modestly this summer

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Despite the turmoil that shook the financial markets last month, the Federal Reserve says its 12 bank regions grew modestly this summer because consumers spent more in most parts of the country.

The Fed survey noted that growth was mixed and some regions reported weaker expansion. But the survey appeared to be an improvement from the previous report, which said growth had slowed in eight of its 12 regions in June and early July.

The survey released Wednesday looked at economic conditions around the country from mid-July through Aug. 26. It was based on reports provided by the Fed’s 12 regional banks. The regional outlook will help shape the discussion at the central bank’s next meeting on Sept. 20-21.

The economy barely grew in the first half of the year, and the government said last week that employers stopped adding jobs in August.

Consumers and businesses are feeling less confident after a turbulent summer. Lawmakers fought over raising the federal borrowing limit, Standard & Poor’s downgraded long-term U.S. debt, and stocks have fluctuated wildly after plunging in late-July and early August.

Some economists say the Fed must take steps to help the economy avoid another recession.

On Aug. 9, the Federal Reserve said it planned to keep interest rates very low until at least mid-2013, assuming the economy remained weak. Minutes from that meeting showed some Fed officials had pushed for more aggressive steps.

One possibility is the Fed could increase the percentage of long-term Treasury securities it keeps in its mix of holdings. That approach would have the advantage of exerting downward pressure on long-term interest rates without adding to the Fed’s already record-level of securities.

Still, three regional bank presidents dissented from the Aug. 9 decision. They expressed concerns that the Fed’s policies were contributing to higher inflation.

The worsening jobs outlook has also put pressure on President Barack Obama. He is expected on Thursday to introduce a $300 billion jobs package before a joint session of Congress. The plan will likely include extensions of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits, tax incentives for businesses that hire and money for public works projects.

But the effort faces strong opposition from congressional Republicans, who say that Obama’s previous stimulus program was a failure. They want deeper spending cuts to fight the government’s soaring budget deficits.