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LONG ISLAND

Foreclosure prevention for all

A Nassau foreclosure prevention clinic for homeowners is on its way to sounding more like the United Nations. The Nassau County Bar Association, which runs the monthly sessions, contacted several embassies and consulates last year to ask them to spread word of the clinic to their communities, said Gale Berg, the bar association's director of pro bono attorney activities. About eight representatives came, and that has resulted in more immigrants coming to the clinics, she said. "What we needed is for the consulates to publicize it as something they endorse so their constituencies will come to us for help," she said. Even for people whose native language is English, it's hard enough understanding the language of mortgages and foreclosures. Nonnative English speakers, whether they speak English well or not, prefer having heavy-duty conversations in their native tongues, Berg said. The next clinic is from 3 to 6 p.m. April 14 at the bar association's Mineola headquarters, 15th and West streets. Contact the bar association at 516-747-4070. -- ELLEN YAN

NATION

Confidence index drops sharply

Rising prices at the gas pump and in grocery aisles are starting to crimp shoppers' outlook. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply from a three-year high in February, reversing five straight months of improvement. The decline raises questions about Americans' ability and willingness to spend in coming months. The index fell more than expected to 63.4 from a revised 72.0 in February. Economists expected 65.4, according to FactSet. The drop was the steepest since the 10.1-point plunge from January 2010 to February 2010. -- AP

Markets gain despite report

Stocks finished broadly higher Tuesday after consumer confidence fell less than some analysts had feared. All 10 company groups that make up the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose by more than 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 rose 9.25 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,319.44. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 81.13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,279.01. The Nasdaq composite rose 26.21, or 1 percent, to 2,756.89. Rising gas prices helped drag down consumer confidence in March. Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

-- AP

Home prices likely to fall more

In at least 14 major U.S. metro areas home prices are now at 2003 levels -- when the housing bubble was just starting to inflate. Prices will likely fall further this year, making many people reluctant to buy or sell. That would push down sales and prices more. Prices fell from December to January in all but one of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index. The index, a gauge of national home prices, dipped for the sixth straight month. Prices in 11 of the cities are at their lowest point since the housing bubble burst. The index was down in New York City 0.9 percent. -- AP

Feds: Gulf oil, gas leases idle

More than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico are sitting idle, neither producing oil and gas, nor being actively explored by the companies who hold the leases, according to a Department of Interior report. Those inactive swaths of the gulf could potentially hold more than 11 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Interior said in the report obtained by The Associated Press. President Barack Obama ordered the report earlier this month amid pressure to curb a spike in gasoline prices following instability in the oil-rich Middle East. The White House said Obama would outline his plans for America's energy security in a speech in Washington Wednesday. The inefficiencies detailed in the report also extend to onshore oil and gas leases on federal lands, with 45 percent of those leases deemed inactive. -- AP

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