By  on July 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — Consumer spending grew modestly last month and early this month, although several regions of the country reported that sales were mixed or below expectations, according to the Federal Reserve Board Beige Book report.

The anecdotal snapshot of economic conditions, which drew on information collected from the Fed's 12 districts before July 16, showed a small bump in spending in the Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis districts. Sales in New York, Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas were flat or below expectations.

Prices at the gas pump were a concern in several areas.

"High prices for retail gasoline reportedly reduced consumers' purchasing power and limited spending a bit more generally," according to the Fed's report on the San Francisco area, which echoed concerns from cities such as Chicago and Dallas.

The performance divide between high-end and low-end stores persisted, at least in Philadelphia.

"Sellers of luxury items continue to see growth in the double digits on a year-over-year basis, while the growth rate for the upper-moderate segment remains robust [in the Philadelphia district]," the report said. "Moderate and low-end merchants experienced varying growth rates close to zero on average."

Lower-income consumers are hurt more than their more well-heeled counterparts by increased gasoline and food prices.

In the New York area, apparel sales were described as "fairly strong" and retailers said sales overall were on or slightly below plan. New York City continued to outperform the rest of the region.

Consumer spending increased modestly in the Minneapolis region, where retailers in northeastern North Dakota saw a rise in the number of Canadian shoppers.

"Traffic at a Montana mall was up about 2 percent and sales were up about 8 percent in June compared with a year earlier," the report said, citing the mall's manager.

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