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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
Americans morose about job market


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Consumers may be thinking long and hard about spending, with confidence in the economy taking a dive.

PAUL SAKUMA | Associated Press

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AMERICANS MOROSE ABOUT JOB MARKET

NEW YORK Americans' confidence in the economy has suffered a sudden relapse, dimming hopes that they will start spending and spurring job growth any time soon.

The Consumer Confidence Index figures released yesterday were much worse than analysts had expected and showed that Americans are morose about the job market and their economic prospects. That bodes ill for the sort of uptick in consumer spending that normally powers job growth, and could raise pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to create jobs themselves.

The index fell almost 11 points to 46 in February, down from a revised 56.5 in January and the lowest level since a 40.8 reading in April 2009. It erased three consecutive months of improvement, according to the Conference Board, the research group that releases the monthly index.

Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

FDIC LISTS 700-PLUS BANKS AS TROUBLED

WASHINGTON The number of U.S. banks considered troubled jumped to more than 700 last quarter even as the industry squeezed out a small profit in a recovering economy.

Loan losses and bank failures are likely to continue to haunt the industry as regional banks succumb to soured commercial real estate loans.

The snapshot for October-December 2009 issued yesterday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. offered a tale of two banking sectors. On the one hand, big banks have been gradually recovering, many of them with help from federal bailout money. On the other, small and midsized institutions continue to suffer distress that will likely persist in the coming years.

PROFITS SHOW RISE IN DO-IT-YOURSELF SALES

NEW YORK Improving sales of paint, flooring and plumbing show home owners are making a cautious return to basic do-it-yourself and home decor projects, Home Depot Inc. said yesterday.

Cost-cutting and stronger sales drove its fiscal fourth-quarter profit higher, the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer said yesterday.

Home Depot also boosted its quarterly dividend for the first time since 2006 and gave a 2010 profit forecast above analyst expectations. Shares briefly touched a 52-week high.

Consumers cut back on home-improvement projects during the recession and housing slump, and Home Depot has responded to weak sales by scaling back store openings and cutting jobs. The company, based in Atlanta, earned $342 million, or 20 cents per share, for the quarter.

Home Depot shares closed up 43 cents at $30.75.