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Business Highlights

Falling home prices raise fears of new bottom

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Tax credits and historically low mortgage rates have failed to lift home prices so far this year. Prices fell 0.5 percent in March from February, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index released Tuesday.

The co-creator of the Case-Shiller index, who predicted in 2005 that the housing bubble would burst, is raising concerns that the worst may be ahead. That fear is shared by other economists who point to weak job growth, tight credit and many more foreclosures ahead.

The month-to-month drop from February to March marked the sixth straight decline. Prices in 13 of the cities fell. Only six metro areas recorded price gains. One, Boston, came in flat.

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Consumer confidence rises in May

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Americans are feeling better about their job prospects, pushing consumer confidence higher in May. But signs that shoppers are slowing their spending as stocks fall could pose a roadblock on the path to recovery.

Already, reports show retailers' business weakening in May after a solid spring season. Confidence's slow climb back could take a hit if the European debt crisis continues to shrink Main Street America's retirement accounts.

The Conference Board, based in New York, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 63.3, up from April's revised 57.7. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected 59.

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EU warns Europe needs major economy reforms

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ Europe's economy will stagnate unless governments make major reforms to boost growth â¿¿ just as they rein in spending to curb soaring debt levels, the European Union's economy chief warned Tuesday.

Low growth prospects and rocketing debt in many of the EU's 27 nations have alarmed financial markets in recent months, causing stocks to slide and the euro to fall sharply in value to a four-year low against the U.S. dollar.

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