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Fed says growth moderate, hiring still subdued

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday the U.S. economy grew moderately in recent weeks but said hiring remained anemic and housing activity impaired.

Information collected in the Beige Book survey of economic conditions around the central bank's 12 districts, also showed inflation remained subdued and some cost pressures have eased.

This might give the central bank room to ease monetary policy further if growth weakens at the start of next year, a fear that has been exacerbated by ongoing turmoil in Europe.

For now, the report confirmed a long-standing trend in the recovery: the expansion remains firmly in place, but underlying conditions are too weak to bring down a 9 percent jobless rate.

"Overall economic activity increased at a slow to moderate pace since the previous report across all Federal Reserve Districts except St. Louis, which reported a decline in economic activity," the Fed said in a statement.

The Fed said manufacturing activity expanded across most of the nation, while bank lending increased slightly from the previous report, released in late October.

Housing, which continues to reel after a five-year slump, remained a sore spot. The Fed described real estate activity as "sluggish" and the commercial property market as "lackluster."

U.S. gross domestic product expanded just 2 percent in the third quarter. With Europe's financial debacle intensifying, some economists worry the ripple effects could threaten the U.S. recovery, as almost happened last summer.

Global central banks on Wednesday announced a fresh coordinated effort to provide market liquidity in an effort to ease funding strains in the European banking system.

(Reporting by Pedro da Costa and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

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