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Question of the Week

How to Know if it's a Good Time to Buy a Home

Home ownership has long been a goal for many Americans, but now more people are worried that the troubled housing market means it's not a good time to buy a home, and they're kissing their plan goodbye.

Since the housing market collapsed in 2008, forcing millions of underwater homeowners out of their houses, real estate has become a scary and unreliable investment option.

"The emotional scars left by the collapse are changing the American psyche," Pete Flint, chief executive of real estate Website Trulia.com, told The New York Times. "There was a time when owning a home was a symbol you had made it. Now it's OK not to own."

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With a Weak U.S. Housing Market, Is Home Ownership Still a Good Investment?

Owning a home has long been a goal for many Americans, but now more people consider U.S. homeownership a poor investment choice and are kissing that plan goodbye.

Since the housing market collapsed in 2008, forcing millions of underwater homeowners out of their houses, real estate has become a scary and unreliable investment option.

"The emotional scars left by the collapse are changing the American psyche," Pete Flint, chief executive of real estate Website Trulia.com, told The New York Times. "There was a time when owning a home was a symbol you had made it. Now it's OK not to own."

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Advancing Technology and Globalization Threaten U.S. Job Growth

The U.S. job market's sluggish pace of recovery has kept many workers jobless and discouraged, and now many feel advancements in technology and globalization will hurt U.S. job growth.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier this month that the country's unemployment rate in April rose to 9.0% from 8.8%. Employment in more than a dozen sectors hit four-year lows in April, and another 10 have gained little since hitting lows in the beginning of this year.

But it's not just a slow economic recovery that is leaving people unemployed. The U.S. job market is changing, as companies find ways to function with fewer workers and some shift operations overseas.

More than 13 million people are searching for work, and even though U.S. companies have collected about $940 billion since the credit crisis, many aren't hiring.

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Are You Confident in Your Financial Game Plan?

Almost all U.S. households create a financial game plan to ensure that ends meet during inevitable struggles with money.

Yet, as anyone who makes a game plan knows, even the most detailed, thorough outlines can fail when real life circumstances intervene.

Just ask the thousands of Americans suffering while tornadoes and flooding continue hammering the U.S. South and Midwest regions, leaving whole towns of people homeless and jobless.

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Middle Class Growth in Emerging Markets Remains Key Commodities Price Driver

Commodities have surged in the past year as investors sought inflation protection, economic recovery picked up, and middle class growth from emerging economies pushed industrial demand.

But when commodities like silver, copper and oil slipped at the beginning of May, many investors panicked.

The Standard & Poor's GSCI Index that follows 24 raw materials fell 11.4% in five days, from May 2 to May 6, the most since December 2008.

Investors who had piled money into precious metals and raw materials feared their safe haven investments had reached a bull-market peak. Some said the commodities bubble had burst and the great rally was over.

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Are You Worried About the Future of the U.S. Job Market?

The U.S. job market has improved since the unemployment rate's 10.1% high in 2009, but the sluggish pace of economic recovery has kept many workers jobless and discouraged.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier this month that the country's unemployment rate in April rose to 9.0% from 8.8%. Employment in more than a dozen sectors hit four-year lows in April, and another 10 have gained little since hitting lows in the beginning of this year.

But it's not just a slow economic recovery that is leaving people unemployed. The U.S. job market is changing, as companies find ways to function with fewer workers and some shift operations overseas.

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Do You Agree the Commodities Bubble is Far from Over?

When commodities like silver, copper and oil slipped last week after record surges, many investors panicked and thought the commodities bubble had finally popped.

The Standard & Poor's GSCI Index that follows 24 raw materials fell 11.4% in five days, the most since December 2008. Silver plunged 30% and oil traded down to $94.63 on Friday.

Investors who had piled money in precious metals and raw materials feared their safe haven investments had reached a bull-market peak. Some said the commodities bubble had burst and the great rally was over.

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U.S. Government Spending is the Biggest Threat to Economic Recovery

A handful of factors threaten the strength of the U.S. economic recovery this year, like U.S. government spending and high unemployment, leading many to wonder just how well the country's economy will fare in 2011.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported last month that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed in 2011's first quarter to 1.8%, down from 3.1% at the end of 2010. High gasoline prices and rough winter weather combined to drag down GDP.

The news came a day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held the first-ever Fed press conference and said he expects the U.S. economy to grow at a rate of 3.1% to 3.3% this year (down from the 3.4% to 3.9% previously projected).

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What Do You Think Are the Biggest Threats to the U.S. Economic Recovery?

A handful of factors threaten the strength of the U.S. economic recovery this year, leading many to wonder just how well the country's economy will fare in 2011.

The U.S. Commerce Department last week reported that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed in 2011's first quarter to 1.8%, down from 3.1% at the end of 2010. High gasoline prices and rough winter weather combined to drag down GDP.

The news came a day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held the first-ever Fed press conference and said he expects the U.S. economy to grow at a rate of 3.1% to 3.3% this year (down from the 3.4% to 3.9% range previously projected).

"Coming in at 1.8, to get to where Fed's forecast is, you're going to need some robust growth in [quarters] two, three and four," Bob Andres, chief investment strategist and economist at Merion Wealth Partners told Reuters. "In my mind, the Fed's forecast and the Street's forecast are more than likely a little too optimistic going forward."

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U.S. Government Faces Credit Rating Downgrade Without Radical Budget Changes

Could the United States lose its status as the world's premier safe harbor for global investors?

Credit-rating heavyweight Standard & Poor's last week threatened to cut the United States' top-tier credit rating, saying the country's political infighting and burgeoning debt may warrant a downgrade.

In short: This country's days as a AAA-rated investment may be numbered.

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