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Bernanke: Inflation remains a top concern

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Despite continued weakness in the housing sector and employment, inflation continues to be among the Federal Reserve's biggest short-term concerns in determining monetary policy, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Senate lawmakers today. Bernanke's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee raises the prospect of increases in short-term interest rates in coming months if prices of oil, food and other commodities continue to rise. Inflation has remained high, running at nearly 3.5 percent annually over the first five months of this year, Bernanke said. With gasoline and other consumer energy prices rising in recent weeks, "inflation seems likely to move temporarily higher in the near term," Bernanke said. The current high level of inflation, if sustained, "might lead the public to revise up its expectations for longer-term inflation" -- expectations that could send wages and prices spiraling. "A critical responsibility of monetary policy...