Bernanke: Asset Purchases Not on a Preset Course: Ahead of the Ticker

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in testimony to Congress Wednesday morning that the central bank still plans to begin tapering its bond buying program later this year, although no timetable is set in stone.

"Our asset purchases depend on economic and financial developments, but they are by no means on a preset course," he said.

Last month, Bernanke said the Fed would stop buying bonds by mid-2014. Unemployment is expected to be around 7% by that time.

If the economy improves at a faster rate than currently anticipated, Bernanke said the central bank's pace of purchases could be reduced "somewhat more quickly." He said it could also go on for longer if the outlook on labor conditions worsens. Bernanke cited federal spending cuts as a factor that could weigh on economic growth in the foreseeable future and force the Fed to continue its pace of asset purchases.

Bernanke added that benchmark short-term interest rates could remain near zero for "a considerable time" after the bond-buying program ended. The Fed has kept interest rates near zero since late 2008.

Bank of America ( BAC) reported better-than-expected profit for the second quarter, boosted by a drop in expenses.

Bank of America reported net income that rose to $3.57 billion, or 32 cents a share, from $2.1 billion, or 19 cents a share, in the same period last year. The results handily beat analysts' expectations of 25 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 3.5% to $22.73 billion.

Higher revenue from equities sales and trading also contributed to the better-than-expected results. The global markets division saw a 93% rise in net income to $959 million. The bank's operating expenses fell to $16.02 billion from $17.05 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Bank of America has been aiming to save $8 billion a year through an initiative introduced in 2011.

Toymaker Mattel ( MAT) reported a 23% drop in second-quarter profit on struggling sales of Barbie products.

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