Periodically, the Federal Reserve collects economic data from the 12 Fed districts around the country and releases the findings in a report known as the Beige Book. In its latest report, which includes data through February 17, the Fed says economic activity has continued to increase at a modest pace and noted improvements in residential real estate, banking, and lending services. The Beige Books says most parts of the country saw increases in housing activity, growth in home sales, and returned forecasts of further improvement for this year. And though home prices were mostly flat or down in many areas, gains in home sales will clear existing inventory and pave the way for price increases. The report also found varying rates of single-family residential construction and building permits around the country and increases in lending and demand for mortgages were seen in areas such as New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco. More here and here.