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White House coy about Easter plans

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared Friday that the slumping economy has begun to show "glimmers of hope," but cautioned that it remains severely stressed and will require lots more work to turn it around.

Once criticized for talking too pessimistically about the economy, Obama is highlighting the positive.

"We're starting to see glimmers of hope across the economy," the president said after a White House meeting with his economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and top economic adviser Larry Summers. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also participated in the session.

Obama echoed Summers' prediction a day earlier that the "sense of a ball falling off a table" would end in a few months.

The president highlighted signs of thawing in the credit markets, particularly for small businesses seeking loans, along with tax cuts he said workers will soon see in their paychecks and a jump in mortgage refinancings due to historically low interest rates.

Obama said those positive moves as well as infrastructure work and other spending underwritten by his $787 billion stimulus program all point to welcome signs of long-anticipated economic improvement.

"We're starting to see progress," Obama said. "And if we stick with it, if we don't flinch in the face of some difficulties, then I feel absolutely convinced that we are going to get this economy back on track."

The president threw in a dose of sober reality, too.

"Now, we have always been very cautious about prognosticating and that's not going to change just because it's Easter," Obama said. "The economy is still under severe stress."

Unemployment hit a 25-year high of 8.5 percent in March, and many people are still losing their homes or jobs, or fear losing them.

"So we've still got a lot of work to do," Obama said. Without elaborating, he said the administration would take steps in the coming weeks to help further improve the business climate.

Gauging Wall Street's response to Obama's more upbeat take had to wait as the markets were closed for Good Friday.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his family are spending the Easter holiday in the nation's capital — but where, and doing what?

Church services Sunday? "He will go, but I'm not going to tell you where," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Later on Sunday afternoon, there's a tribute concert to the late Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, on the 70th anniversary of her concert there that was considered a major development in the civil rights movement. It's the sort of event that's right up the Obamas' alley. But will America's first black president stop by?

The White House isn't saying.

As Obama navigates the first months of his presidency, the politician who promised more transparency in government but craves some semblance of a private life is still trying to find that balance.

That's been true of the Obamas' search for a local church to call home. Most of the vetting of roughly a dozen churches is happening behind the scenes, and Gibbs said that whatever church the Obamas attend this Sunday shouldn't be seen as a sign of which church they'll join as members.

Beyond privacy, Obama these days has an eye on protecting his own security and on causing as little disruption as possible for outside groups.

When word got out just before his January inauguration that he would attend a Sunday service at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, crowds jammed the church and many parishioners couldn't get in. Aides don't want that to happen with Easter services.

McClatchy Newspapers

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