Yet another diagnostic of the US economy has added to current confusion as to the true state of the nation's fiscal wellbeing [WAMN: 17-Jan-2005].

The Federal Reserve's survey of holiday period business conditions across twelve national regions shows shopping and tourism growing, factories buzzing with activity and more jobs in the pipeline.

The spectre of inflation, which prompted five hikes in borrowing rates last year, has faded, the survey says.

Consumer spending rose in most of the districts surveyed. Sales of luxury goods, jewellery and electronic item were particularly strong.

Tourists returned to both East and West Coasts, with Boston and San Francisco reporting better hotel occupancy rates. Florida's theme parks were full to bursting.

Job creation was less clearly positive with some districts reporting improvement while others say there was little movement.

However, manufacturers claim they are planning increased capital spending in 2005, which could signal more new jobs ahead.

This upbeat estimation coincided with Thursday's second term inaguration of President George W Bush.

But nobody was going to rain on the parade by mentioning such ephemera as the nation's alltime record trade deficit which according to Jack Guynn, a senior executive of the Federal Reserve, today verges on six percent of United States GDP - and continues to rise.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff