Fed signals future rate cuts

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON_Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress that the nation is in for a period of sluggish business growth and sent a fresh signal today that interest rates will again be lowered to steady the teetering economy.

“The economic situation has become distinctly less favorable” since the summer, the Fed chief told the House Financial Services Committee.

Since Bernanke’s last such comprehensive assessment last summer, the housing slump has worsened, credit problems have intensified and the job market has deteriorated. Bernanke said that the confluence of these factors has turned people and businesses alike toward a more cautious attitude toward spending and investment. This, he said, has further weakened the economy.

Incoming barometers continue to “suggest sluggish economic activity in the near term,” Bernanke told lawmakers. At the same time, he added, the Fed must keep a close eye on inflation given the recent run-up in energy and other prices paid by consumers and businesses.