Consumer fears ease slightly

NEW YORK (AP) -- A monthly survey says concerns about jobs and inflation eased in April, pushing the Consumer Confidence Index above expectations.

The Conference Board said the index rose to 65.4 from a revised 63.8 in March. Economists expected a smaller rise to 64.8, according to FactSet.

The increase comes after an unexpected drop in March stemming from worries about rising gas prices and other household costs. But the measure had risen for five consecutive months before that and hit a three-year high in February.

The index is still far from the reading of 90 that indicates a healthy economy. It hasn't approached that level since the recession began in December 2007.

The Conference Board says views about income and the job market improved during the month and expectations about inflation declined.

Retailer reports rising prices

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Kroger Co. says grocery prices are rising slightly, and it is passing along those hikes, but it may benefit from fuel prices going up because the discounts it offers on gasoline could attract more shoppers.

At the Barclays Capital analyst conference in New York on April 26, the nation's largest grocery store operator also affirmed its guidance for the year.

Kroger expects to earn $1.80 to $1.92 per share and it expects its revenue to rise 3 to 4 percent at stores open at least 15 months, a key retail gauge.

Analysts expect earnings of $1.91 a share and a 6 percent increase in overall revenue to $86.9 billion, according to FactSet.

David Dillon, chairman and CEO, said grocery prices have gone up roughly 2 percent, in what he described as "the low side of moderate" inflation, since late last year as suppliers deal with higher commodity and energy costs.

Home prices continue slide

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Home prices are falling in most major U.S. cities, and at least 10 major markets are at their lowest point since the housing bubble burst.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index showed home prices declined in 19 metro areas from January to February and 11 markets experienced faster price declines compared with the previous month.

The index, which was released April 26, fell for the seventh straight month. It is slightly above the level hit in April 2009, the lowest point since the bubble burst. Analysts expect the March index will fall past the low point.

High unemployment, stricter lending rules and fears that prices will fall further are among the reasons why few people are buying and selling homes. A record number of foreclosures are forcing down home prices in most metro areas, and prices are expected to keep falling through this year.

Prices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tampa are all at their lowest point since 2006 or 2007, at the height of the housing boom. The cities with the steepest declines from January were Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami.

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