NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it appears that the U.S. economy has halted the longest period of decline since the Great Depression, although it cautioned that economic activity is likely to remain weak in the near term.
The central bank left its key overnight interest rate at 0% to 0.25% range, as expected. Its statement at the conclusion of its two-day meeting said "economic activity is leveling out." That is its most bullish assessment of the economy in more than a year, and suggests that a recovery may have started.
It said that it still expects "inflation will remain subdued for some time" and said that it expects rates to remain near zero percent "for an extended period."
The Fed cut interest rates to the record low range at its December meeting in an effort to spur the struggling U.S. economy at that time.
It also pumped about $1 trillion of cash into the economy during the last year through a number of extraordinary programs, including the purchase of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, as well as new programs to get banks and other lenders to extend credit to consumers.
But in recent weeks there has been a growing consensus among top economists that the U.S. economy has turned around or is close to doing so. A number of economic readings, including the government's employment report and the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, have improved - although they still show job losses and a modest drop in GDP.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – President Obama ended his first 100 days in office amid hopes that both General Motors and Chrysler Group might both still avoid bankruptcy. In his second 100 days, he created a new U.S. auto industry.
The reshaping of GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy is essentially complete, and the Treasury Department holds large stakes in both companies.
There is arguably no segment of the economy where the administration has had greater impact than in the auto sector. And there's also no accomplishment that surprised experts more.
"It was a remarkable feat, and it surprised a lot of people," said Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan think tank.
Some critics aren't convinced that a speedy bankruptcy was the right thing to do. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy April 30 and was out of bankruptcy on June 10. GM filed for bankruptcy on June 1. It emerged from Chapter 11 protection on July 10.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Job losses slowed dramatically in May, according to the latest government reading on the battered labor market, even as the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high.
Employers cut 345,000 jobs from their payrolls in the month, down from the revised 504,000 job decline in April.
This was the fewest jobs lost in a month since last September, when the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers caused a crisis in U.S. financial markets and choked off credit for many businesses. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 520,000 jobs in May.
The unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent from 8.9 percent in April. Economists expected unemployment would rise to 9.2 percent.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The unemployment rate hit a 25-year high in April, but there were signs of hope as the monthly job loss total fell to the lowest level in six months.
The Labor Department reported that employers cut 539,000 jobs from payrolls in the month. That's an improvement from the revised reading of 699,000 that were lost in March, and the best reading since October, when the economy shed 380,000 jobs.
Still, that brings job losses since the start of 2008 to 5.7 million.
The unemployment rate, based on a separate survey rose to 8.9% from 8.5% in March, the worst reading since September 1983. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast the rate would rise to 8.9%.
Economists had forecast a loss of 600,000 in April, but there had been signs in recent days that the job losses might not be as bad as they expected. A reading on private sector employment by payroll services firm ADP showed a big drop in job losses in April, and there has been a steady decline in recent weeks in people filing for first-time unemployment benefits.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Prices paid by consumers rose as a faster pace in February, as higher gas prices in the month fed into the highest inflation reading since July.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The Obama administration's top auto advisors were in the Detroit area Monday to meet with officials from General Motors and Chrysler, test drive a new electric car and try to chart a course for the industry's rescue.
March 31 is the stated deadline for the government to decide whether General Motors and Chrysler LLC, which have already received $17.4 billion in loans between them and have asked for up to $21.6 billion more in the coming weeks to help them avoid running out of money, deserve another bailout.
Steven Rattner and Ron Bloom, two former investment bankers brought in to advise the Treasury Department on the best course for saving the automakers, and Diana Farrell and Brian Deese, two members of the National Economic Council, made the visit to Detroit Monday.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The U.S. government waded deeper into the bailout of one of the nation's largest banks Friday when it announced a deal that will give it control over as much as 36% of Citigroup's common stock.
Citigroup shares tumbled 46% in premarket trading.
The deal will convert preferred shares that Treasury already holds in Citigroup for common shares, a shift that is designed to improve the embattled bank's capital base, which in turn will hopefully allow it to increase its lending.
The U.S. government has already given Citigroup $45 billion, for which it received preferred shares and warrants in the company.
The new deal Friday did not give the bank any additional taxpayer dollars. But the government is taking on a greater risk by assuming more volatile common shares. The market price is well below the $3.25 per-share conversion price the government is paying.
Taxpayers will also lose roughly $2 billion in dividends, because the preferred shares they are giving up paid 8% dividends. Citi suspended its common share dividend as part of the agreement.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation's battered labor market.
The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008.
January's job loss was also worse than the forecast of a loss of 540,000 jobs from economists surveyed by Briefing.com
The rise in the unemployment rate also was worse than the 7.5% rate economists expected. The unemployment rate is now at its highest level since September, 1992.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - President Bush announced a rescue plan for General Motors and Chrysler LLC Friday morning that will make $13.4 billion in federal loans available almost immediately.
A senior administration official briefing reporters said he expects that GM and Chrysler LLC will be signing the loan papers to access the cash later Friday morning.
The money will come from the $700 billion fund set aside to bailout Wall Street firms and banks in October.
With these loans, Treasury will have committed virtually all of the $350 billion of that fund that it can hand out without additional authorization from Congress. Once Congress releases the other $350 billion, the two automakers will be able to borrow an additional $4 billion.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The future of the U.S. auto industry was in doubt Friday morning after a proposal for $14 billion in federal loans died in a late night Senate vote.
The Senate voted 52-35 to bring the measure for a vote - short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. The failure followed the collapse of negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans seeking a compromise that both parties, as well as the companies and the United Auto Workers union, could accept.
The dramatic late-night developments could doom General Motors to a bankruptcy and closure in the coming weeks, with Chrysler LLC potentially following close behind.