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Obama Confident in Economy, Recovery Plan 

U.S. President Barack Obama says he is optimistic that the economy's long-term future is strong if officials can solve structural problems with the global economy. The president shared his views on the state of the economy with the leaders of some of America's biggest companies.

President Obama expressed guarded confidence to business leaders gathered in Washington, as he promoted his economic plan. "I do not think things are ever as good as we say and they are never as bad as they say. Things, two years ago, were not as good as we thought, because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy, and they are not as bad as we think they are now," he said.

Mr. Obama said the United States still has the best industry and workforce to guide it out of economic trouble. And he said banks will survive and investors' savings will be protected.

The president spoke at a meeting in Washington of (the Business Roundtable,) an association of leading U.S. companies' chief executive officers.

There were other small signs of optimism Thursday. General Motors said it will not need a $2 billion government loan for this month. Bank of America's chief executive officer said his company will not need additional financial help from the government. The government reported that retail sales fell far less than expected in February. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained almost 240 points.

However, Mr. Obama warned against the false confidence that he says led to many of the current problems in the economy. "We cannot continue to base our economy on reckless speculation and spending beyond our means; on bad credit and inflated home prices and overleveraged banks," he said.

The president also defended his efforts to reform other areas, including health care, education and infrastructure. "I am not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it, or because I am a glutton for punishment. I am doing so because they are fundamental to our economic growth, and to ensuring that we do not have more crises like this in the future," he said.

Earlier, Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden warned officials from most of the 50 states to spend their share of the federal government's economic recovery package wisely. "If the verdict on this effort is that we have wasted the money, we built things that were unnecessary, or we have done things that are legal but make no sense, then, folks, do not look for any help from the federal government for a long while," he said.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner faced tough questions from senators of both parties on Capitol Hill. Geithner defended the administration's new budget, saying its spending increases are short-term and will later have to be sharply reduced.