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Geithner, in last interview as Treasury secretary, says US economy should gradually strengthen

Outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner thinks the U.S. economy will strengthen this year — as long as Congress avoids cutting spending too deeply in a budget deal and Europe's economy gradually improves.

In an interview on his last day in office, Geithner tells The Associated Press, "The economy is stronger than people appreciate." He agrees with many private forecasters that economic growth will accelerate this year, in part because the U.S. economy is no longer being held back by oil shocks and Europe's debt crisis has subsided.

Asked about his future, Geithner rules out the possibility that he would return to Washington as chairman of the Federal Reserve next year, when Ben Bernanke's term ends, if asked by President Barack Obama.

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