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Stocks rising...Bernanke not ready to end stimulus...IRS official takes the Fifth

Wednesday - 5/22/2013, 11:51am  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are climbing in early trading on Wall Street. Traders are looking at the Federal Reserve chairman's remarks to Congress, a new batch of earnings reports and an update on home sales from the National Association of Realtors.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ben Bernanke is telling Congress it's too soon for the Federal Reserve to end its extraordinary stimulus programs. The Fed chairman tells the Joint Economic Committee that reducing the Fed's efforts to keep borrowing rates low would "carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery." He says the job market is improving, but unemployment remains well above levels consistent with healthy economies. And he says higher taxes and deep federal spending cuts are expected to slow economic growth this year.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The IRS official at the center of the storm over the agency's targeting of conservative groups has told Congress she did nothing wrong. But Lois Lerner is refusing to answer questions from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against incriminating herself. Lerner heads the IRS office that decides whether groups qualify for tax exemptions.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of previously-occupied U.S. homes ticked up last month to the highest level in three and a half years. The National Association of Realtors says sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million, up from 4.94 million in March. The number of homes for sale jumped to 2.16 million, up nearly 12 percent from the previous month. But inventory is still almost 14 percent lower than a year earlier.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lowe's says its first-quarter net income rose nearly 3 percent, but results fell short of expectations as rainy weather hurt spring gardening sales. The No. 2 home improvement retailer's results were in contrast to Home Depot, which yesterday reported an 18 percent increase in net income.

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