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Bernanke To Brief Congress On Economy Next Week

Fed chief Ben Bernanke will brief Congress on the state of the economy next week, but the Fed chief's appearance to discuss the central bank's exit strategy has yet to be scheduled after the original hearing was cancelled because of a major snow storm.

Bernanke will present his so-called Humphrey-Hawkins testimony on monetary policy and the state of the U.S. economy at 10 a.m. Feb, 24  before the House Financial Services Committee, according to a committee source.

The appearance before the House committee typically precedes another, near identical, one one before the Senate Banking Committee the following day. A date could not be confirmed.

The House committe will also hold a "preview" hearing the day before Bernanke's appearance with a group of economists. (The list is not yet available.)

According to a House news release, "the hearing is scheduled in anticipation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual Humphrey-Hawkins testimony, and witnesses will consider whether or not additional monetary or fiscal measures are needed in order to sustain the recovery."

Recent economic data has been more upbeat than expected, which will make Bernanke's comments all the more important to both Washington and Wall Street.

It's unclear if Bernanke will weave in comments about the Fed's exit strategy, especially since the Fed decided to release the chairman's full text after the postponement of the meeting last week.

Next week's hearing will be Bernanke's first appearance before Congress, since an acrimonious confirmation process for a second term. Minutes from the Fed's most recent FOMC meeting are due out today while its next policy meeting is mid-March.

Displeasure with Bernanke's handling of the crisis as well as his controversial use of the Fed's emergency powers is likely to bleed into the hearing.

Congress has already shown that is clearly concerned about the strength of the economy's recovery, particularly in the area of job creation, and is now wrestling with legislation to address it.

Most economists do not expect the Fed to raise interest rates until a jobs recovery seems clearly in place (the consensus is late summer, early fall), but it is already taking steps to end or remove many of the extraordinary monetary policy measures it used to add liquidity in the past year and a half. Bernanke's testimony reaffirmed those considerations and future steps.

What the Fed has done in this area has become a matter of great discussion among Wall Street economists, policy analysts and members of Congress, some of whom have been critical of Bernanke's handling of the financial crisis.

That wave of discontent broke loudly in January as the Senate approved a second term for Bernanke by a roughly 4-to-1 margin, the closest vote for a Fed leader in modern history.