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US Home Prices, Consumer Confidence Fall

Home prices in the United States posted a record drop in November, while U.S. consumer confidence fell by more than one percentage point to a record low of 37.7 in January.

Economists watch consumer attitudes for clues about the consumer demand that drives most of the U.S. economy.

The National Retail Federation predicts that 2009 will see the first annual decline in retail sales in at least 14 years, as consumers worried about unemployment decrease their spending.

Consumers also have reason to worry about falling home values. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Schiller 20 city index shows home prices were down more than 18 percent for the 12-month period that ended in November.

Top officials of the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, are meeting in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking ways to ease the economic crisis. The Bloomberg financial news service says they are expected to leave the benchmark U.S. interest rate at its current record low level of 0 to .25 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.