By  on December 1, 2005

WASHINGTON — Sales rose across much of the country from mid-October to mid-November, and inventories were generally in line, according to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, an anecdotal take on the state of the U.S. economy.

Retailers generally expect sales to rise during the holiday season, though some think momentum might be hard to maintain into next year, said the report, which was released Wednesday and collected information from the Fed's 12 districts.

On the broader economic scene, the Beige Book showed increased activity throughout the country, though high energy prices are causing some general unease.

Backing up that anecdotal evidence, preliminary figures for the gross domestic product, detailed by the Commerce Department Wednesday, showed an annual growth rate of 4.3 percent during the third quarter. That's up from a growth rate of 3.3 percent in the second quarter.

According to the Beige Book, luxury goods, electronics and food showed strong sales in several regions across the country, while winter apparel turned in a weak performance.

General merchandise sales in the New York district were close to plan in October, but below expectations in November. Despite what the report characterized as "lackluster sales," retail inventories were said to be at "satisfactory levels" in the region.

In Philadelphia, retailers are looking for modest year-over-year sales growth for the holidays, but said the momentum would be tough to sustain. Sales of luxury goods and consumer electronics outpaced other goods in the district, and discounters fared better than mid-priced department stores and specialty stores.

Sporting goods, TVs and some imported furniture sets sold well in Boston, while casual apparel floundered. In the Kansas area, several malls reported that warmer-than-usual weather hurt traffic, though women's apparel sales were strong.

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