Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke on Economy: 'Far Too Early to Declare Victory'

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"We're not paying any attention to election calendars or political debates," he said. "We're looking at the economy. We want to make the right decision. We want to do it without political pressure, and that's what we're going to do."

Investors have been deconstructing Bernanke's every word, trying to get a sense of whether the Federal Reserve will engage in additional monetary policy stimulus. The central bank's "Operation Twist," which aims to bring interest rates lower through a swap of long-term debt for short-term debt, expires in June. The Federal Reserve previously implemented two rounds of quantitative easing, or bond buying to push long-term interest rates lower, the second of which was introduced in November 2010.

"Well, we don't take any options off the table," he said, when asked if the Federal Reserve could initiate additional economic stimulus. "We don't know what's going to happen in the future, and we have to be prepared to respond to however the economy evolves."

This month Bernanke began delivering a four-part lecture series at the George Washington University School of Business about the Federal Reserve and the financial crisis that emerged in 2008.

"I was a student of the Great Depression as an academic and I think some of the lessons - the mistakes - that were made during the Great Depression are very helpful in thinking about our response to the recent crisis," he said. "And I think we avoided some of the most important mistakes."

"Have we hit rock bottom on housing?" Sawyer asked.

Bernanke said the housing market, with home prices near decade lows, remains "a big concern," though there have been a "few signs of progress" including extra building permits and more construction in multi-family housing.

"So there's a bit of a green shoot there if you will," he said. "But you know, we're not really yet in a full-fledged housing recovery. And you know, that will be part of the full recovery of the economy."

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