The first-time homebuyer tax credit is helping the housing market recover, especially in the low end of the market for much of the country, according to the Federal Reserve's Commentary on Current Economic Conditions, also known as the Beige Book. The report, issued eight times a year, is a compilation of economic reports from the Fed’s 12 district banks, which in September said while residential real estate markets remain weak, there are signs of improvement. The Chicago, Richmond, Boston and San Francisco Districts experienced an increase in sales over the past six weeks, while the Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas City, Richmond and New York districts reported the first-time homebuyer tax incentive contributed to increased sales. Philadelphia reported steady activity. Most districts reported sales below the last year’s levels, but the Atlanta, New York, Cleveland, and Minneapolis districts experienced year-over-year gains in select markets. The St. Louis district reported residential home sales had not improved in the Midwest. While the recent increase in activity has been focused on the low-priced end of the market, the Philadelphia market reported an increase in sales at the upper end of the market. While prices continue to face downward pressure, Dallas and New York reported some increases. Mortgage activity was mixed in the districts. The Philadelphia, Cleveland and Kansas City districts reported activity had declined modestly, but Richmond saw an increase it attributed to improved demand for starter homes. The Dallas district reported an increase in refinance activity. The lack of available credit continues to pressure both residential and commercial contractors in Cleveland, and commercial real estate borrowers in Atlanta, while San Francisco reported an increase in venture capital investment. Philadelphia, Richmond, Dallas, and San Francisco noted further deterioration in credit quality, but Cleveland observed some improvement in credit quality. Write to Austin Kilgore.