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Top Business Story: Recovery From Great Recession

Small- and mid-sized banks hold lots of those loans and have been hurt more than big institutions by the sinking commercial real estate market, especially in states like California, Georgia and Illinois. As defaults rise, these banks must set aside more money to cover losses.

6. U.S. SPILLS RED INK: The federal deficit triples to record $1.4 trillion as financial bailout and war costs soar. It's more than the total national debt for the first 200 years of the Republic, more than the entire economy of India, almost as much as Canada's, and more than $4,700 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

7. MADOFF SCANDAL: Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff is sentenced to 150 years in prison for his multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. A year after Madoff's scheme collapsed in December 2008 ¿ with headlines of $50 billion in losses ¿ investigators and investors are still struggling to measure the full scope and impact of the largest securities fraud in history.

8. FEDERAL AID FOR ECONOMY: Government stimulus programs spur sales of homes and autos but raise doubts about whether the economic recovery can be lasting if federal aid is withdrawn.

9. A NEW FRUGALITY: Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, shows tentative improvement but remains far below pre-recession levels. Evidence mounts that many Americans have become lasting coupon-cutters, scrimpers and savers. Consumer confidence in November rises to 49.5 from 48.7 in October. A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.
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