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Bernanke warns of slow progress ahead on jobs

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy, pouring cold water on the notion that recent upbeat signs herald a stronger recovery.

Bernanke told Congress that unless growth accelerated, the unacceptably high U.S. unemployment rate would not keep dropping.

But he stopped short of signaling further Fed bond purchases, dashing the hopes of some traders in financial markets who were betting on more monetary stimulus.

"The job market is far from normal," Bernanke said. "Continued improvement ... is likely to require stronger growth in final demand and production."

The swift decline in the U.S. unemployment rate in recent months, to a three-year low of 8.3 percent in January from 9.1 percent in August, has surprised economists both within and outside the Fed given the economy's relatively soft performance.

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