PORTLAND -- Several reports out Tuesday confirmed the economy is still showing signs of recovery.

The three main areas of concern: Confidence in the economy, access to money and the real estate market. And all looked better than expected.

The February consumer confidence index is the best in three months, exceeding analysts estimates.

It means people are feeling better about the economy overall, and about spending. Many are putting that money in real estate.

The housing market continues to see a marked improvement with prices in the Portland Metro area up 9.6 percent over last March, outpacing many other areas of the country. And home buyers will continue to have access to low mortgage interest rates through 2013.

Tuesday Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke told Congress he is staying the course until the job market improves significantly, down to six percent unemployment.

It's a Catch-22. It's all about confidence, said Brian Adams of the University of Portland School of Business. If everybody's more confident, then they're more willing to spend. And if they're more willing to spend then demands goes up, then there has to be more hiring to counter that demand.

While home prices continue to rise, they remained about 24 percent below their peak in 2007.

Also Tuesday, Bernanke warned Congress the sequester would drag down the economy and further add to high unemployment numbers.

Related: Obama warns of risks over budget cut uncertainty


KGW Reporter Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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