(Adds background, comments on China)
By Corbett B. Daly
PITTSBURGH, March 31 The U.S. economy is still
in a tough spot but is gradually regaining its balance after a
series of policy mistakes that made the country weaker and less
secure, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday.
"We are coming back, and we are coming back faster and
stronger than most people predicted -- faster and stronger than
Europe and Japan," Geithner said after meeting with steel
executives and union leaders here.
The U.S. Treasury chief made a quick trip to Pittsburgh, a
former steelmaking center, to highlight improving prospects for
the hard-hit manufacturing sector and to urge lawmakers to
agree to measures for reining in financial firms that were at
the heart of the financial crisis.
Geithner toured a plant of Allegheny Technologies Inc. in
nearby Washington, Pennsylvania. The company makes titanium
specialty sheet for the oil and gas industry and other
specialty metals for aerospace and defense companies.
There were fresh reminders on Wednesday of the strains the
economy still faces, including a report from U.S payrolls
processor ADP showing that U.S. private employers shed 23,000
jobs in March, missing expectations for a rise of 40,000 jobs.
The government is due to release its closely watched
monthly payrolls report on Friday. Ahead of the ADP report,
economists polled by Reuters expected payrolls to rise by
190,000 in March, which would be the second monthly increase
since the recession began in December 2007.
Geithner called on Congress to provide tax breaks for small
businesses and enact new rules for the financial system. The
U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to impose
tighter rules on financial firms but the Senate has yet to do
Geithner, who leaves next week for a trip to India,
repeated that he believes that China will eventually decide it
is in its own best interest to make its yuan currency more
flexible, but did not say when that might happen.
"I am very confident that they are going to decide it is in
their interest to move on currency reforms," Geithner told
reporters. "It's very important that they take the steps they
said they would take to allow their currency to move to a more
(Editing by Leslie Adler)