Bernanke warns economic recovery 'close to faltering'

(AP) - Europe has a debt crisis. America has a jobscrisis. Corporate profits could be in trouble. World financialmarkets are in turmoil. And no one

WASHINGTON - (AP) - Europe has a debt crisis. America has a jobscrisis. Corporate profits could be in trouble. World financialmarkets are in turmoil. And no one seems prepared to ride to therescue. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bluntly warned Congress onTuesday of what most of America has sensed for some time: Theeconomic recovery, such as it is, "is close to faltering." The central bank chief spoke on a day when the stock marketspent most of the trading hours in bear market territory - down 20percent from its most recent highs in April. A late-day rallyhelped the market finish higher. Bernanke's exchange with lawmakers seemed to capture the growingbelief that no one is prepared to help the global economy in anymeaningful way anytime soon. Speaking in unusually frank terms, healso captured the nation's sour economic mood. The Fed chief was asked about protests around Wall Street, whichwent on for an 18th day as demonstrators railed against corporategreed and expressed frustration over the economy. Bernanke replied: "I think people are quite unhappy with thestate of the economy and what's happening. They blame, with somejustification, the problems in the financial sector for getting usinto this mess. And they're dissatisfied with the policy responsehere in Washington. And at some level, I can't blame them." "Certainly, 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is nota very good situation," he added. "That's why they areprotesting." Throughout the day, traders and U.S. policymakers kept one eyeon Europe, where a debt crisis has dragged on more than a year.Investors worry that a messy default by Greece could hurt Europeanbanks and their American counterparts. On Tuesday, the Greek finance minister said the nation hasenough money to pay pensions, salaries and bondholders through themiddle of next month - and that was seen as good news. Bernanketold Congress there was little the Fed could do about Europe'sproblems. "Unfortunately, we are innocent bystanders here," he said. "Iam persuaded they are aware of the risks." Bernanke said he believes the Fed's latest move to help theeconomy would be "meaningful but not an enormous support" for theeconomy. The program, known as Operation Twist, is designed tolower long-term interest rates so people and businesses will spendmore money. "It should help, somewhat, on job creation and growth," theFed chief told Congress. "It's particularly important now that theeconomy is close, the recovery is close to faltering."

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