WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke told House lawmakers that whatever housing finance reform plan is enacted to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, policymakers must be clear to private investors about the government's role.

In his first of two semiannual hearings this week to update Capitol Hill about the state of the economy, Bernanke was careful not to express preference for any of the competing reform plans circulating around Washington, despite lawmakers' attempts to seek his opinion. But he did say that if a final plan included a government backstop, it would be wise for policymakers to provide as much detail as possible in advance to the private market about how that backstop would work.

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