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Business update: Fed paints weaker picture of growth

Wed., July 14, 2010, 11:13 a.m.

Federal Reserve officials have a slightly dimmer view of the economy than they did in April, reflecting worries about how the European debt crisis could affect U.S. growth and job prospects. Fed officials say in an updated economic forecast that they think the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, will grow between 3 percent and 3.5 percent this year. That’s a downward revision from a growth range in their April forecast of 3.2 percent to 3.7 percent. The Fed’s latest forecast sees the unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, possibly staying at that figure or in the best case falling to 9.2 percent. In the April forecast, the Fed had a slightly lower bottom number of 9.1 percent.

Clinton joins job creation meeting at White House: The White House is seeking help from former President Bill Clinton in its efforts to create jobs. Clinton is joining President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House today for a meeting with business leaders. The White House said the meeting would focus on new ways to create jobs in the private sector and increase investments in the clean energy industry. Clinton was to discuss a project run by the Clinton Global Initiative that retrofits and weatherizes large buildings, including New York’s Empire State Building, to make them more energy efficient. The program also trains workers to gain the skills needed for the projects.

New White House report claims more jobs from stimulus bill: The White House asserted today that the $862 billion stimulus law has been even better for the economically-struggling country than previously advertised. Updating its estimate of the impact the controversial new law has had, the White House now projects that the vast spending act has created or saved between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs. That’s up from the estimate of 2.2 million to 2.8 million jobs that was released in the first quarter of the year from the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Dim retail sales hurt economy but offer bargains: A second straight month of declining retail spending will likely keep unemployment high and help weaken the recovery. Not everyone is suffering, though. Shoppers with stable jobs and steady pay can find lots of bargains. The economy is bleaker for anyone seeking a job or at risk of losing one. Still, Americans as a group are spending less, and that threatens the pace of the recovery.

Tobacco co. makes changes after child-labor report: A report that cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. bought tobacco from farms in Kazakhstan that used forced and child labor has prompted it to change its policies. The world’s largest nongovernment cigarette seller said today that it took immediate action following the Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with 68 farm workers in 2009 and early 2010. The report, also released today, raised serious concerns over child labor and conditions of migrant workers on tobacco farms in its supply chain.

Home loan applications down 2.9 percent: Applications for home loans dipped last week even though consumers were able to refinance at the lowest rates in decades. The Mortgage Bankers Associations says overall applications decreased nearly 3 percent from a week earlier. That incorporates an adjustment for the Independence Day holiday. Applications to refinance home loans were down 2.9 percent. Applications taken out to purchase homes fell 3.1 percent, which the MBA said reduced its index to the lowest level since December 1996.


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