WASHINGTON -- Business conditions look a bit brighter in most of the United States as retailers express optimism about sales to holiday shoppers, the Federal Reserve Board said yesterday.

"Reports on economic conditions point to modest improvement in most Federal Reserve districts, but the rate of gain is uneven," says the "beige book," a survey of business sentiment in the 12 Fed districts. The report, based on information collected before Dec. 1, serves as a guide to deliberations by members of the Federal Open Market Committee.

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