Bernanke Sees Steady U.S. Growth, Possible Rate Hikes

The U.S. economic expansion is "on track" despite some obstacles, new Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke said Feb. 15, noting that any interest rate increases would be "increasingly dependent" on new data.

In his first congressional appearance as head of the central bank, Bernanke said Feb. 15 that more rate hikes may be needed because of the threat of higher inflation from a strong economy and higher energy prices. The message was almost identical to the Federal Open Market Committee's last policy statement. Bernanke said the Fed has come a long way in hiking rates and removing accommodation.

Bernanke said economic growth remained on track despite the weak fourth-quarter data. A sharp downturn in the housing market was a risk to the expansion, but only a "modest softening" was expected, he said. "The most recent evidence ... suggests that the economic expansion remains on track," Bernanke said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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