Obama Sees End of Recession Near

Fed survey shows pace of decline has slowed in most areas

President Obama said July 29 he sees "the beginning of the end of the recession," as economic indicators and comments from the Federal Reserve suggested stabilization after a brutal slump.

"We have stopped the freefall. The market is up and the financial system is no longer on the verge of collapse," Obama said during a visit to North Carolina.

"So there is no doubt that things have gotten better. We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the recession."

The Federal Reserve's Beige Book report on economic conditions also offered some signs of hope after more than a year and a half of recession.

The report, to be used by policymakers at next month's Federal Open Market Committee, said the decline is moderating, although many indicators remain weak and prospects for job creation remained grim.

The survey found data suggesting "that economic activity continued to be weak going into the summer," but that most districts "indicated that the pace of decline has moderated since the last report or that activity has begun to stabilize, albeit at a low level."

Obama said the economy is now losing jobs "at nearly half" the rate of when he took office in January, he added in mounting a defense of his plans to stimulate the economy.

He acknowledged that unemployment remains high and cautioned that the lower job losses is "little comfort if you're one of the folks who lost their job and haven't found another."

But Obama also pointed to data showing home prices rising for the first time in three years, a hopeful sign for the sector at the epicenter of the crisis.

The US president defended his actions to rescue two of the Big Three automakers and major banks, saying these were part of actions to avert the possibility of a new Great Depression.

"If we had been in ordinary times, not teetering on the brink of depression, we might have exercised other options," he said.

Obama said the $787 billion stimulus plan is working, helping stimulate activity through tax reductions as well as public works.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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