Obama points to 'glimmers of hope' in US economy

US President Barack Obama today pointed to "glimmers of hope" in the US economy but warned that the country was "by no means out of the woods just yet".

In what had been billed by the White House as a "major speech", the president said measures introduced by his administration to help pull the country out of recession had saved jobs and begun to free-up the frozen credit market.

But tempering the optimism, Mr Obama added that over the coming year there would be further unemployment, more home repossessions and more pain in the economy.

The president used the opportunity of an address at Georgetown University in Washington to deliver a progress check on his stimulus package, housing proposals and bank capitalisation plan - a programme "unprecedented in both its scale and its speed", Mr Obama said.

He added: "Taken together, these actions are starting to generate signs of economic progress."

According to the White House, spending in the near-US$800bn (€602.4m) recovery plan has already saved police and teaching jobs, while personal and small business lending has increased as a result of moves to pump cash into the financial sector.

"This is all welcome and encouraging news, but it does not mean that the hard times are over," the president said, adding: "2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America's economy. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures, and more pain before it ends."

Echoing earlier remarks on the recession, the president blamed "a perfect storm of irresponsibility and poor decision-making that stretched from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street" for the country's economic woes.

But the speech - which was light on any new announcements - balanced a sombre assessment of the economy with muted optimism.

The president said: "There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope. And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of America's future that is far different than out troubled economic past."

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