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May 27, 2017

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Vegas eyes turnaround as Obama bets recovery

LAS VEGAS--Like "everybody" in 2005, Las Vegas casino worker Jay Nagasako bought his house — for US$244,000, thinking it was a one-way bet to wealth and security.

This year he sold it for US$75,000, losing a fortune but saying: "You have to move on with your life."

In the four years since President Barack Obama was first elected, thousands of homeowners have faced a similar nightmare in the Nevada gambling city, which has the dubious honor of being America's foreclosure capital.

As Nov. 6 looms, and Obama battles to stay in the White House, there are faint signs of a turnaround, with home prices starting to rise, and the jobless rate down to 12.3 percent in August from 14.3 percent a year earlier.

But it will be a long road to recovery — a fact Obama is all too aware of, as he tries to convince Americans to give him four more years, to revive the country's shattered economy.

Nagasako, a 43-year-old bachelor, prided himself on being able to pay his mortgage — but after the 2008 crash, as house prices went through the floor, he realized he was fighting a losing battle.

"Everybody was buying at that time," he told AFP. "I did everything right, I made my payments and everything and then I realized: why am I putting money in something that's worth a lot less?"

So, having joined the massed ranks of the "underwater" homeowners in Vegas — whose property was worth less than they owed — he decided to "short sell" it back to the bank, which took possession in return for writing off his debt.

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