WASHINGTON -- The US economy continued to grow in the early fall despite being buffeted by rising energy costs and hurricanes, the Federal Reserve said yesterday, providing its last snapshot of business conditions before Election Day.
The survey of business activity around the country, compiled from reports submitted by the Fed's 12 regional banks, depicted an economy that was moving ahead despite the string of hurricanes that hit Florida and other Southern states and a surge in crude oil prices.
''Economic activity continued to expand in September and early October," the Fed said in the survey. The Fed's report will be used by central bank policy makers when they meet Nov. 10 to decide whether to raise interest rates further.
The Boston Fed reported that economic activity in New England continues to expand. Most retailers and manufacturers say third-quarter sales exceeded year-earlier levels. Hiring and capital spending remain cautious and high energy costs are a source of concern in the region.
Many economists believe the central bank will push up rates for a fourth time this year in an effort to make sure a rebounding economy does not generate unwanted inflationary pressures.
Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis, suggested the central bank may leave the funds rate at 2 percent, skipping the chance to raise rates at its last meeting of the year in December and for the first few meetings of 2005.
The Commerce Department said that orders for big-ticket manufacturing goods edged up a modest 0.2 percent in September. Sales of new homes were up a bigger-than-expected 3.5 percent to the third highest monthly level on record. The rise in new home sales pushed activity to an annual rate of 1.21 million units in September, the third highest level on record.