25 Feb 2010

Low US rates to remain - Bernanke

5:56 pm on 25 February 2010

The head of the US Federal Reserve has said interest rates will remain at record lows "for an extended period".

Testifying to Congress on Wednesday, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said there was a "nascent economic recovery".

US stocks jumped more than 1%, led by banks, as some had feared that the cost of borrowing would start rising soon.

Although the United States economy is growing, the BBC reports some worries remain about its strength because unemployment remains high.

The Fed has begun undoing some of the emergency measures it implemented during the financial crisis.

Last week, the discount rate - which is a rate for emergency loans to banks - was increased to 0.75% from 0.5%.

As well as the discount rate, the Fed also sets the federal funds rate - the rate at which banks lend to each other and which is used to set rates on mortgages and car loans.

It did not change its funds rate last week, keeping it at a record low target of between zero and 0.25% since December 2008.

Mr Bernanke also sounded a note of caution over the size of the US budget deficit, funded by huge levels of government borrowing.

President Barack Obama has forecast the deficit will rise to a record $US1.56 trillion this year.