Demand for mortgage loans picked up in most of the Federal Reserve's 12 districts, with Dallas leading the pack due to strong overall demand and a backlog of loans, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book Wednesday.

The Fed's Beige Book gives economists and businesses a routine update on the outlook of the overall U.S. economy by questioning contacts in the various regions to gauge overall activity.

Mortgage loan refinancing activity either remained steady or picked up in the New York, Cleveland, Richmond and Chicago federal reserve districts. The Kansas City and Dallas regions also saw increased lending for agricultural and commercial real estate projects.

As for credit lending standards, Fed contacts in the New York, Richmond and the Kansas City districts saw lending standards remain mostly unchanged. Meanwhile, auto lending standards eased in Cleveland.

The fed districts based in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco noted general improvements overall in credit quality.

"Delinquency rates held steady or declined in the New York and Cleveland Districts," the Beige Book said. "Banking contacts in the Cleveland, Atlanta, Dallas, and the San Francisco Districts noted stiff competition for quality loan customers. The Chicago District noted uncertainty over the effects of U.S. fiscal policy actions was reducing their customers' demand for credit. Likewise, Dallas reported a slightly more pessimistic outlook than the previous Beige Book due in part to European debt issues and regulatory and political uncertainty."

Residential real estate markets remained mostly in positive territory, with sales improving in the Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis regions.

Sales increased in the districts of Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.

"However, reports on sales were mixed in the New York District, and gains in the Boston District eased from earlier in the year," the Fed wrote. "New home sales were described as disappointing in the Philadelphia District. Construction increased in the New York, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts, while reports from the Cleveland District said construction slowed."

Home inventory levels fell in most districts while prices began to stabilize in several markets. In other markets, prices actually increased.

Rising apartment rents also were reported in the Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas districts.