CITING STRONG progress on the economy, President Obama said at his annual year-end news conference yesterday that 2014 "can be a breakthrough year for America" after a long season of recession and slow recovery.

Yet he suggested that given widespread criticism, he may alter the power of the National Security Agency to collect information on Americans.

And when it came to the universally panned roll out of his health care law, Obama conceded that "we screwed it up," and said, "I'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year."

The president praised Congress for a recent, relatively modest budget compromise: "It's probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship. But it's also fair to say we're not condemned to endless gridlock."

He also renewed his refusal to negotiate concessions with Republicans in exchange for legislation that will be needed in late winter or early spring to raise the nation's debt limit.

Obama spoke from the White House briefing room podium as he concluded his fifth year as president, his hair far grayer than the day he was first sworn in.

The president opened his remarks with an upbeat assessment of the state of the economy, and seemed determined not to stray from it. The economy grew by 4.1 percent annual rate from July to September, the most since 2011.

Asked if this year had been the worst of his presidency so far, he laughed and said, "That's not how I think about it."