PLANO, Texas — A glimmer of hope inched into economic news recently as Brian Turner, director of advisory services for Southwest Corporate Invest-ment Services reported that first quarter economic growth rose at a 0.9% pace. Turner called it "an encouraging sign during a time when pockets of the housing market continued to struggle and higher food and energy prices impacted disposable income."

It's better than the 0.6% pace reported in the fourth quarter of 2007. Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the nation's GDP, increased at just a 1.0% pace in the first quarter–the slowest since the 2001 recession, he said.

"Consumers are faced with higher energy and food prices, leaving them with less money to spend on other things. Falling home values are making many homeowners feel less wealthy and less inclined to spend. And, the credit crunch has made it harder to finance big-ticket purchases," Turner relayed.

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