Obama evokes 'glimmers of hope'

After a White House meeting with top US economic officials, President Barack Obama talked about "glimmers of hope" for the first time while pointing out that there was still "a lot of work" to do.


AFP - President Barack Obama said Friday he saw "glimmers of hope" that the US economy may be wrestling free of a paralyzing recession, but warned of "a lot of work" yet to nurse it back to health.

"We're starting to see progress, and if we stick with it, if we don't flinch in the face of some difficulties, then I feel absolutely convinced that we are going to get this economy back on track," Obama said.

But "we still have a lot of work to do, and over the next several weeks you'll be seeing additional actions by the administration," he said after talks with top officials steering the recovery effort.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke, senior Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers, and Christine Romer, who leads the White House Council of Economic Advisers, were present.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation head Sheila Bair, Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Mary Shapiro and Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan also attended.

Obama pointed to increases in loans to small businesses, tax cut checks going out, new investments in infrastructure and energy projects and declared: "What we're starting to see is glimmers of hope across the economy."

"Now, we have always been very cautious about prognosticating, that's not going to change just because it's Easter. The economy is still under severe stress," said the president.

"And obviously during these holidays we have to keep in mind that whatever we do ultimately has to translate into economic growth and jobs and rising income for the American people," he said.

"And right now we're still seeing a lot of job losses, a lot of hardship, people finding themselves in some very difficult situations."

The president said he had received updates on efforts to stabilize the housing market, unlock frozen lending and plans to nurse the banking system back to health.

"We discussed ongoing stabilization of the financial system, and the steps that have already been taken," said Obama, who cited drops in mortgage interest rates and other slight signs of an improving economic picture.

"We feel confident that even as we're dealing with the problems within the banking system, that we're also addressing some of the problems in the non-bank financial system that was such a huge proportion of our credit flow when it came to things like auto loans and credit cards and so forth," he said.

The meeting had also been expected to touch on global efforts to pull out of the international economic slump, including strategies hatched at the Group of 20 summit the president attended in London last week.

The talks came amid shy optimism about the US economy tempered by historically high unemployment and media reports that troubled US automaker General Motors may find bankruptcy to be the only path out of its crisis.

Obama administration officials were poring over figures showing a plunge in the US trade deficit, projections of a record profit at US banking giant Wells Fargo, decent retail sales predictions for April, and a dip in jobless claims.

The US unemployment rate jumped in March by 0.4 percentage point from February to 8.5 percent, its highest level since November 1983.

The White House budget plan released in February projects a 1.2 percent GDP contraction for this year.

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