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The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, warned of a possible "protracted slowdown" on Monday and said consideration of a second economic stimulus plan would be "appropriate." "With the economy likely to be weak for several quarters and with some risk of a protracted slowdown, consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate," he said in comments to a House of Representatives budget committee.

Bernanke said that economic recovery would depend greatly "on the pace at which financial and credit markets return to more normal functioning" and said Congress should consider ways to encourage lending in any package.

"If Congress proceeds with a fiscal package it should consider including measures to help improve access to credit by consumers, homebuyers, businesses and other borrowers," he said in his prepared remarks.

The speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has suggested that Congress may convene after the November 4 presidential elections to pass a projected 150-billion-dollar stimulus package.

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