Week 12: 'Glimmers of hope'
President Obama returns to the U.S. to focus on economic issues including banks and mortgages - and reports signs of recovery.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama returned to Washington from his first tour of Europe and Iraq this past week -- his 12th week in office -- to move forward with his plan to fix the battered banking sector and to report early signs of a recovery.
After meeting with his top financial advisers Friday, Obama said he was starting to see "glimmers of hope in the economy," partly as a result of his administration's actions. But he acknowledged that the U.S. economy "is still under severe stress."
Obama, in a statement after the meeting, said American workers started to receive their first paychecks reflecting newly-imposed tax cuts this month.
He also said his administration's efforts to unlock lending for small business owners was beginning to pay off.
"As a result of our actions, we've seen a 20% increase in the largest [small business loan] program," he said.
Obama refrained from painting an overly rosy picture, noting that the country is pressured by "a lot of job losses, a lot of hardship, people finding themselves in very difficult situations."
But he ended his speech with a positive note: "I feel absolutely convinced that we're going to get this economy back on track."
The president met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for his daily economic briefing, which typically covers a wide range of economic issues.
Then Obama met with other key figures in the government's financial team, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, to plot the next steps in the stress tests being taken to ensure the solvency of the nation's 19 leading banks.
Mortgage refinance: On Thursday, Obama focused on the mortgage crisis. Meeting with members of his economic team, as well as homeowners who had recently refinanced their mortgages, he urged Americans to take advantage of historically low interest rates.
"There are seven to nine million people across the country who right now could be taking advantage of lower mortgage rates," said Obama. "We estimate that the average family can get anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000 a year in savings by taking advantage of these various mortgage programs that have been put in place."
The president also said he was working with banks to establish a loan modification program.
International tour: Earlier this week, Obama wrapped up his whirlwind tour of Europe, which had begun with the G20 meeting in London the prior week.
On Tuesday, his last full day overseas, he met with Turkish students in Istanbul, and dropped in on U.S. troops during a surprise visit to Baghdad, where he was warmly received.
100-day scorecard: Week 12. CNNMoney.com will continue to track Obama's first 100 days in office and keep score of the government's unprecedented efforts to fix the ailing economy. (Last week's article is available here.)
Week 10: Rescue gains steam
Week 9: AIG dominates Obama's message
Week 8: Obama: 'I'm very confident' we'll be OK
Week 7: Obama pushes - and gets pushed
Week 6: Obama thinks big in budget
Week 5: It's law. Now on to budget
Week 4: Obama gets his bill
Week 3: Bank bailout overhaul
Week 2: Stimulus debate heats up
Week 1: Pitching the recovery plan