The U.S. economy remained sluggish in April and May, according to the Federal Reserve's latest "beige book" report. The report, which surveys business activity in 12 metropolitan markets that represent the nation as a whole, says that no region experienced expanded activity during the period and blames higher energy and food costs on difficulties facing both businesses and consumers. Manufacturing activity is described as "generally soft" and points to reduced demand for housing-related products and slower automotive sales as key factors. However, several regions report strong demand for steel, energy-related equipment, and transportation equipment for defense and aerospace, largely due to increased overseas demand.
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