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US ollar gained ground against the main rivals as house prices and consumer confidence have fallen by more than expected, according to data released on Tuesday, emphasising the lingering risk that a weak housing market will dent domestic demand and undermine the US economic recovery. According to the widely followed Case-Shiller index, house prices dropped by 1.3 per cent between September and October, the fourth consecutive month in which prices have fallen. Prices across 20 US urban areas stood 0.8 per cent below the level of October 2009, a sharper fall than economists had expected. Separately, the Conference Board, a research group, said that its index of consumer confidence had declined to 52.5 in December from a revised reading of 54.3 in November, confounding the expectations of most economists who had predicted an increase to nearly 57. Although the index remained above the level suggesting expansion, Lynn Franco, director of the consumer research centre at the Conference Board, said that the news was sobering. “Consumers’ assessment of the current state of the economy and labour market remains tepid, and their outlook remains cautious,” she said. Consumers’ assessments of the current situation and their expectations for the future also fell back in December. The Swiss franc strengthened to a record against the dollar and snapped a three-day decline versus the euro after a government report showed French economic growth slowed more than originally estimated. Last week, by contrast with Tuesday’s Conference Board measure, the rival University of Michigan consumer survey reported an improvement in household confidence.
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