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Fed Says Economy Is Still Excellent

June 17, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The American economy continued its excellent performance into this month, with employment high and inflation low, despite scattered spillover from Asia’s economic ills, the Federal Reserve said today.

``Employment levels are high and labor markets tight in most areas,″ the central bank said in its ``beige book″ survey of regional economic conditions. ``Prices of goods are largely stable.″

It said growth was ``quite strong″ in the Northeast, much of the Midwest and on the West Coast. However, the Southeast and Southwest were experiencing ``somewhat more modest growth.″

``Seven (of 12) districts made specific note of effects from economic problems in Asia,″ it said.

The report, named for the color of its cover, was compiled from reports submitted to the Fed’s district banks before June 8. It will be used when monetary policy-makers meet next _ on June 30 and July 1 _ to decide whether to raise interest rates.

The Fed hasn’t touched rates since March 1997. The benchmark rate on overnight loans between banks had been at 5.5 percent since then. Most economists expect the Fed to hold off raising rates as long as Asia remains economically fragile. Moreover, spillover from Asia should cool the U.S. economy, alleviating any need for an inflation-dampening increase in rates.

In today’s report, the Federal Reserve noted such effects as a drop in sales to Asia of computer components and lumber from the San Francisco district, reduced demand for some manufactured goods in the Boston district, and increased competition from Asian apparel and textiles in the Richmond district.

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