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Bernanke stands by plan to keep record-low rates

WASHINGTON - Ben Bernanke says the Federal Reserve is sticking with its plan to hold interest rates at record-low levels until at least late 2014, despite a pickup in hiring that's steadily lowered the unemployment rate.

The Fed chairman's twice-a-year economic report to Congress mostly mirrors his remarks in January after the Fed pushed back its timetable for any rate increase.

Bernanke acknowledges that unemployment, now at 8.3 percent, has fallen faster than the Fed had predicted. He says the Fed doesn't expect the rate to continuing falling as fast this year. But if it does, he says the Fed would reassess its economic outlook.

Some economists think the Fed will reconsider its 2014 target for raising interest rates if job growth continued to strengthen.