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CONSUMERS

Confidence index rises in April

NEW YORK | Americans’ confidence in the economy grew in April as fears about the job market eased, outweighing the pain from rising prices at the gas pump.

The increase comes after an unexpected drop in March. But the measure had risen for five consecutive months before that to hit a three-year high in February.

The Conference Board said Tuesday the index rose to 65.4 from a revised 63.8 in March. Economists expected a smaller rise to 64.8, according to FactSet.

The index is still far from the reading of 90 that indicates a healthy economy. It hasn’t approached that level since the recession began in December 2007, even though the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Still, the index’s 40-point increase since its all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009 reflects how far the economy has come.

HOUSING

Home prices fall in most major cities

Home prices are falling in most major U.S. cities, and at least 10 major markets are at their lowest point since the housing bubble burst.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index showed home prices declined in 19 metro areas from January to February and 11 markets experienced faster price declines compared with the previous month.

The index, which was released Tuesday, fell for the seventh straight month. It is slightly above the level hit in April 2009, the lowest point since the bubble burst. Analysts expect the March index will fall past the low point.

High unemployment, stricter lending rules and fears that prices will fall further are among the reasons why few people are buying and selling homes. A record number of foreclosures are forcing down home prices in most metro areas, and prices are expected to keep falling through this year.

INTERNET

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