Fed keeping eye on housing market

Bernanke also said he doesn't expect the end of the Fed's program to buy mortgage-backed securities to push up mortgage rates. 

"I don't anticipate any impact on mortgage rates," he said. The Fed purchased $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities to clean up banks' balance sheets. 

The Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today that 230,000 homeowners have received permanent mortgage modifications in March, a significant increase over the last period under a government program to help stem foreclosures. That is up from 170,000 in February. 

Over the last year, the administration has set up several programs to encourage borrowers and lenders to work out modified mortgage terms and avoid foreclosure. The programs are a key part of the administration's effort to stabilize housing markets, which remain weak.

Critics, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill, argue the loan modification program has been slow to take effect and many initial modifications do not pan out.