President Bush says the U.S. economy is strong, despite recent turbulence in the stock market and a decline in home sales. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

The president stuck a reassuring note Wednesday in comments at the Treasury Department and a series of interviews with business reporters.

Several times, he was asked about the ups and downs now being experienced on Wall Street. He said he is sure the stock market will eventually settle down and will do so without any damage to the U.S. economy.

A slump in housing sales and concerns about availability of credit are worrying investors. The president said they must remember that the underpinnings of the economy are sound, and that will enable the marketplace to work through these problems safely.

The interviews were held shortly after the president completed consultations at the Treasury Department with members of his economic team. In public comments after their closed-door session, Mr. Bush once again called on Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty and complete work on the necessary legislation needed to fund the federal government for the fiscal year that begins October 1.

"They need to pass these spending bills, one at a time, before the deadline. In a time of war, I ask them to start by sending me the spending bill for the Department of Defense, so I can sign that into law," he said.

The president also urged the legislature to approve free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. And he vowed, once again, to work toward a successful conclusion of the current round of world trade talks

"We're going to work hard to conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations, all aiming to open up new opportunities for U.S. producers and aiming to fulfill a great calling, and that is to help eliminate poverty around the world," he said.

The Doha round was launched in November 2001 and has been mired in disagreements almost since the beginning on how best to bring down trade barriers and help developing countries trade their way out of poverty.