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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Market confidence 'fragile', Bush told
President George W Bush (right) with speaks as Vice-President Dick Cheney
George Bush: "We're confident in the long-term health of this economy"
The confidence of US investors is at a "very fragile point", a leading Wall Street figure has warned President George W Bush at a summit aimed at tackling economic woes.

Charles Schwab, the broking magnate whose firm manages $800bn in assets held in 8 million accounts, warned Mr Bush that the recent slide in share prices had taken its toll on investors.

Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab: Confidence warning
And while he thought the stock market downturn would be only temporary, Mr Schwab added:

"The bear market that we're suffering right now is probably one of the worst I have ever gone through, and it's not a comfortable place to be."

Burger boom

Mr Schwab, who founded the Charles Schwab Corporation in 1974, was one of some 240 "ordinary Americans" invited by Mr Bush to a summit aimed at identifying and treating US economic ills.

Other delegates include a delivery van driver, a rubbish collector and the head of a small dry cleaning firm, as well as key members of Mr Bush's Cabinet.

He also heard Larry Johnston, chairman of Idaho-based grocery chain Albertsons, warn of "weak" consumer confidence.

"We see them (consumers) buying things like hamburger instead of steak."

'Fancy financial footwork'

Mr Bush said comments made at the half-day event had not dented his faith in the US's recovery hopes.

"We have heard from Americans who are concerned, but not discouraged," Mr Bush said after the forum, held near his ranch in Texas.

"We see problems, but we're confident in the long-term health of this economy."

Challenges included the drive to clean up corporate America "so that people feel confident that they're not being led down the primrose path of fancy financial footwork", Mr Bush said.

Sheri Orlowitz, chief executive of manufacturing company Shan Industries, told the president:

"People feel that the government is not moving quick enough to take punitive actions against the CEOs who have destroyed the public trust in our institutions and in our public markets."

HIV cash axed

Mr Bush also highlighted the need to control public spending and, in a snub to Congress, said he would refuse to release $5.1bn in homeland security money in disapproval at the strings attached.

Besides being aimed at improving airport and embassy security, the package proposed by Congress also included refugee aid for Afghanistan and $200m for fighting HIV/Aids abroad.

"We'll spend none of it," Mr Bush said.

'Short on solutions'

Tuesday's summit was based around eight seminars, which were led by senior government officials, and visited for 15 minutes each by Mr Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

"I can assure that even though I won't be sitting through every single moment of the seminars... we will look at the summaries," Mr Bush said.

But Democrats dismissed the event.

"By limiting this meeting largely to like-minded participants and special interests, the administration protects its policies from serious scrutiny," South Carolina Democratic Representative John Spratt said.

The result would be an event "long on rhetoric and short on solutions", Mr Spratt added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Evans
"It's about keeping consumer confidence high"

Economic indicators

Fears and hopes

US Fed decisons

IN DEPTH
See also:

13 Aug 02 | Business
05 Aug 02 | Business
05 Aug 02 | Business
31 Jul 02 | Business
30 Jul 02 | Business
29 Jul 02 | Business
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