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Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, appears on a television on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. Bernanke said the U.S. economy is being held back by lingering weakness in the housing market. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve chief Ben S. Bernanke sketched a hopeful outlook in two hours of testimony to a congressional panel Thursday, offering no sign that the Fed is preparing imminent action to aid the nation's economy. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday that bond buying and other steps by the Fed are still an option if the economy should weaken. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke speaks during a news conference at the Fed headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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** FILE ** In a Feb. 2, 2012, file photo Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Budget Committee. The Federal Reserve will have plenty to say about the economy Wednesday, April 25, 2012, when its two-day policy meeting ends. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster/file)

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**FILE** Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies Feb. 2, 2012, on Capitol Hill before the House Budget Committee. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke speaks at the 2012 Financial Markets Conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta at the Stone Mountain Evergreen Convention Center outside Atlanta on Monday, April 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Phil Skinner)

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"The Great Depression informed the Fed's actions and decisions in the recent crisis," Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said at George Washington University, noting the Fed's multiple missteps during the 1930s in failing to stem the financial panics, bank runs and economic downspiral that created such desperate conditions. (Associated Press)

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**FILE** Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke takes part in a news conference Jan. 25, 2012, at the William McChesney Martin Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before the House Budget Committee on Feb. 2, 2012, is visible on a television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Associated Press)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Budget Committee on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke takes part in a news conference at the William McChesney Martin Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, following the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Illustration: Federal Reserve by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

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With the Washington Monument behind them, protesters, calling for the end of the Federal Reserve, march Oct. 9, 2011, to the Federal Reserve in Washington. (Associated Press)