WRAPUP 3-U.S. housing shaky as confidence sags on jobs worry

* Confidence hits 10-month low on job worries

* Consumers concerned about gridlock in Washington

* Home prices unexpectedly slip in December – Case-Shiller
(Adds graphic, adds Senate jobs bill, updates to stock market

By John Parry and Wanfeng Zhou

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. consumer confidence
sagged to a 10-month low this month on worries about jobs and
fears gridlock in Washington could hinder efforts to restart
employment, curbing the economic recovery.

The housing market also remains rickety, data showed on
Tuesday, further underscoring the economy’s fragility.

Confidence fell in February as consumers’ short-term
outlook on jobs worsened, according to a report from an
industry group, stoking analysts’ concerns that spending could
falter and curb economic activity.

“There is growing disenchantment with the way (Congress)
has been handling the problems. Not only the growing deficit,
but their inability to get the job engine started,” said
Carmine Grigoli, chief U.S. investment strategist at the
equities division of Mizuho Securities USA in New York.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer attitudes
fell to 46.0 in February, the lowest since April last year and
down from a revised 56.5 in January. The reading was also
striking for how much it undershot the 55.0 median forecast
from analysts polled by Reuters.

“This is just a flat-out bad report,” said Tom Porcelli,
senior economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

“I think if you’re looking for signals for consumer
spending or jobs, there are no positive signals here,” Porcelli
added. “In fairness we’re going through a pretty tough recovery
and we know that, but I think this is a reminder that the
recovery’s going to be very uneven.”

For a graphic of consumer confidence, see:


U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) suffered their biggest one-day decline in
nearly three weeks on Tuesday after a sharp drop in consumer
confidence. Treasury prices shot higher, while the dollar rose
against the euro. [ID:nN23125273]

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market worsened. The
Conference Board’s “jobs hard to get” index rose to 47.7
percent in February from 46.5 percent in January. The present
situation index dropped to 19.4 from 25.2 in January, the worst
since February 1983.

The number of mass layoffs by U.S. employers edged up in
January as manufacturers stepped up job cuts, another report
showed, even though many analysts still think the economy is on
the verge of creating jobs. [ID:nN2398667]

Emergency government support for the economy has helped
limit the already severe damage to the labor market, a
non-partisan organization said. The Congressional Budget Office
said the massive stimulus package passed last year created up
to 2.1 million jobs in the last three months of 2009.

U.S. congressional leaders said on Tuesday they could get a
job-creating bill through both houses soon for President Barack
Obama to sign into law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said
he planned to bring up the $15 billion package of tax cuts and
highway spending for a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Adding to worries about the economy, the latest reading of
Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller indexes showed U.S. home prices
unexpectedly slipped in December, but the annual rate of
decline slowed, reinforcing that the housing market is on an
uneven path to recovery.

The S&P composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan
areas declined 0.2 percent in December, matching the dip in
November, for a 3.1 percent annual drop.

A Reuters survey had forecast that prices would be
unchanged for the month and down 3.2 percent annually.
For a graphic of U.S. home prices, see:
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/0210/US_HSGPRC0210.gif For a
graphic of major retailers’ earnings gains, see:

U.S. commercial real estate is unlikely to show meaningful
recovery before next year, a real estate group said, citing
high vacancy rates. The National Association of Realtors said
many property owners would be forced to make concessions on

However, consumers increased their purchases on home
maintenance and improvements. Top home-improvement chain Home
Depot Inc (HD.N: ) reported its first quarterly same-store sale
rise in nearly four years and gave an upbeat full-year
forecast. [ID:nN23238978].

Target Corp’s CEO said both the economy and its business
were meaningfully improved from a year ago. [ID:nWEN0550].

But there was bad news on the banking sector as regulators
reported that the number of “problem” U.S. banks jumped 27
percent during the fourth quarter of 2009, to 702. That was the
highest level since 1993.

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(Additional reporting by Lynn Adler, Emily Flitter, Emily
Kaiser and Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Dan Grebler)

WRAPUP 3-U.S. housing shaky as confidence sags on jobs worry