After seemingly endless months of relentlessly distressing financial reports, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Friday that the economic news is looking up on both the national and global economic fronts, and that “prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.” –KA

The Washington Post:

The idea that the economy is starting to improve was bolstered Friday by a report that sales of existing homes soared 7.2 percent in July to the highest level in two years. Bernanke’s comments and the housing news sent Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index up 1.9 percent to a new high this year.

But the meat of Bernanke’s speech was not about the stabilizing economy, but rather an extensive defense of the Fed’s handling of the financial crisis and recession. It is part of a broader effort to shore up confidence in the central bank, which has come under fire in Congress and in public opinion polls for its role in various bailouts.

And it comes as speculation heats up over whether President Obama will reappoint the chairman when his term expires Jan. 31.

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