Fed: US economy fragile

THE US&nbsp; economy is improving but remains extremely fragile, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday.<br /><br />Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, he also reiterated the Fed&rsquo;s stance that the current environment of ultra-low interest rates would persist for &ldquo;an extended period&rdquo;. <br /><br />He noted that inflation could remain subdued but that the unemployment rate could remain high.<br /><br />Markets had been concerned that last week&rsquo;s extraordinarily strong jobs data would encourage the Fed to tighten monetary policy at a much faster rate than had been previously expected.<br /><br />Over the last 18 months, the US central bank has cut interest rates to close to zero, and has spent $3 trillion (&pound;1.8 trillion) on propping up the credit markets and trying to keep the economy from falling into a full-scale depression.<br />