This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
Two thousand nine may be remembered as the year the world avoided an economic depression.
In the United States, stock prices sank to their lowest levels in March. But stocks recovered strongly for the year. The S & P Five Hundred index gained over twenty percent--its largest increase in six years.
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As two thousand nine ended, the nation's biggest banks rushed to repay money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. In October of two thousand eight, Congress approved up to seven hundred billion dollars to rescue the financial industry. Last month, the United States Treasury announced that Wells Fargo and Citibank had repaid forty-five billion dollars. They joined Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America in returning government aid.
In June, the Treasury permitted the ten largest banks to return their rescue money and withdraw from TARP. This let banks escape government restrictions on pay for top officials. Now, the government holds a large ownership share in only one big bank, Citigroup. The Treasury says it expects banks to repay one hundred seventy-five billion dollars of TARP money this year.
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The American car industry also had big problems in two thousand nine. Chrysler and General Motors sought bankruptcy protection from their creditors. The restructured companies may still need government aid, which has already reached over sixty billion dollars. But a government program that paid Americans to trade in old vehicles for new, fuel-saving models increased car sales in the summer.
The Ford Motor Company refused government aid and is working to become profitable again by two thousand eleven. And there are signs that the industry is starting to recover.
However, the housing market continued to suffer its worst downturn in generations. Mortgage financer Fannie Mae reports that payments on five percent of its single-family home loans are late. The ten percent unemployment rate has meant that many people are struggling with their house payments.
Still, consumer confidence grew in December. Experts say Americans were feeling better about the job market and the economy. Growth in the United States is expected to reach about two and a half percent in two thousand ten.
And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.