Business briefs: Slow times ahead

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, said Thursday that a host of economic problems, including the severe housing slump, will cause business growth to slow noticeably in coming months. Bernanke told Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that the central bank is watching developments closely, but gave no signal that it’s prepared at the current time to cut interest rates even further.

Steve Ballmer

Microsoft's chief executive, in Tokyo to launch new Windows Live services, played down the threat of Google Inc. (GOOG) on Thursday, denying the rival was ahead in any way but in online searches. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) on Thursday began offering its Windows Live programming package for e-mail, instant messaging, blogging and photo-sharing in Japan.

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