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US consumer confidence rebounds in optimistic sign

WASHINGTON/BERLIN -- U.S. consumer confidence rebounded in March, providing a further sign that the economy's prospects should brighten with warmer weather.

The Conference Board says its confidence index rose to 82.3 in March from a February reading of 78.3. It marked the first time the index has been above the 82 level since last June, when it stood at 82.1.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says consumers are moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, though less optimistic about income growth.

Consumer confidence is closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

German Business Optimism Slips Amid Ukraine Crisis

A closely watched survey shows business confidence in Germany slipping back from a 2-year high as tensions over Ukraine cloud companies' outlook for the next six months.

The Ifo institute said Tuesday that its monthly confidence index dropped to 110.7 points this month from 111.3 in February. That was a slightly worse figure than the 110.9 economists had predicted.

Executives' assessment of their current situation improved but their six-month outlook darkened, meaning that the overall index fell from the first time since October.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that she wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Russia's actions in Ukraine but has made clear she won't shy away from economic sanctions if the situation there escalates.

US Home Prices Dip In Jan. for 3rd Straight Month

U.S. home prices dipped in January for the third straight month as cold weather, a limited supply of homes and higher mortgage rates lowered sales.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, declined 0.1 percent from December to January, the same decline as the previous two months. The index is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the dip partly reflects weaker sales in the winter.

The index rose a healthy 13.2 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier. But that is down from a 13.4 percent increase in 2013 and is the second straight month that the annual gain has slowed.

Still, most economists see the price moderation as a positive trend. Home prices jumped over the past two years partly because investors swooped in and bid up prices in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities in the south and west. Rapid price increases have likely kept some buyers on the sidelines.

“The housing market is showing signs of moving forward with more normal price increases,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones index committee.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The December figures are the latest available.

The slowdown in price gains follows other signs that the housing recovery has hit a rough spot. Sales of existing homes in February fell to their lowest level since July 2012. Home construction slipped last month for the third month in a row, though builders sought the most permits than in any month in four years.

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