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New Fed head says economy back on track

Bernanke leaves door open for interest-rate hikes

New Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered his first economic report to Congress, saying the economy has snapped out of an end-of-year lull and leaving the door open to higher interest rates in the future. "The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) judged that some further firming of monetary policy may be necessary, an assessment with which I concur," Bernanke said in his prepared remarks to the House Financial Services Committee. Recent economic barometers on jobs, production, retail sales and other business activity in January "suggests that the economic expansion remains on track," Bernanke told the committee. The expansion, he said, does have "a lot of staying power." Although higher energy prices down the road could feed inflation fears, a slowing housing market raises the prospects of crimping consumer spending, which has been an important ingredient to the country's economic health. The Fed will closely watch how these uncertainties play out, Bernanke said. Still, at t...

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