WASHINGTON — Not mincing his words, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress today that the economy faces "significant challenges," and aren't likely to improve in the short term.

During testimony before the Senate Banking Committee he said the biggest problems are the "sluggish pace" of growth and strains in the financial markets, job growth and the housing market.

He said that a myriad of factors threatened the economy in the months ahead.

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