CNN Financial News Producer
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says he's hoping the recession could end later this year, but he cautioned that a full economic recovery will take "more than two or three years."
The head of the central bank said in prepared remarks before the Senate Banking Committee today that a turnaround will only occur "if actions taken by the administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability." He also acknowledged the recovery might not go as well as hoped.
Home prices declined at a record pace around the nation in the final three months of 2008.
The S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index says prices sank a record 18.2% during the last three months of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007. Case-Shiller's index of 20 major metropolitan areas fell 18.5%, also a record.
Sun Belt cities suffered the worst declines, with Phoenix down 34%, Las Vegas off 33% and San Francisco lower by 31.2%. Denver fared best, down 4%, while Dallas was lower by 4.3% and Cleveland slid 6.1%.
A key measure of consumer sentiment plummeted more than expected in February as Americans remained wary of spending amid the weak economy and rising unemployment.
The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, says its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 25 in February from a revised reading of 37.4 in January. The index, which has been at historic lows since September, now stands at its lowest level since it was created in 1967.
Stocks on Wall Street bounced higher at the open despite the rash of weak economic news. Stocks tumbled Monday, with the Dow and S&P ending at their lowest levels since 1997. Concerns about the economy - particularly the banking, auto and tech sectors - led investors to continue their recent selling spree.
Gas prices dropped 1 cent overnight to $1.90 a gallon. 9 states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. 41 states have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.529). The cheapest gas prices are in Missouri ($1.684)
Finally, battered by mounting credit-card losses, American Express is offering $300 to a limited number of cardholders who pay off their balances and close their accounts.
Cardholders have until the end of February to accept the offer and must close their accounts in March or April. Each card holder will receive a $300 pre-paid American Express card.
Charge-offs, or loans that American Express has deemed un-collectable, rose to more than 8% in January from 7% the month before, while payments that were at least 30 days overdue climbed to above 5%, the company said in a filing last week.
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