Yeah, it’s a total mystery.

(AP) — The economy’s continuing struggles aren’t just confounding ordinary Americans. They’ve also stumped the head of the Federal Reserve.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters Wednesday that the central bank had been caught off guard by recent signs of deterioration in the economy. And he said the troubles could continue into next year.

“We don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting,” Bernanke said. He said the weak housing market and problems in the banking system might be “more persistent than we thought.”

It was the Fed chief’s most explicit warning yet that the economy will face serious challenges next year. For several months, he had said the factors working against economic growth appeared to be “transitory.”. . .

But at a press conference afterward, the second of what the Fed says will be regular question-and-answer sessions with reporters, Bernanke conceded the economy’s troubles are more puzzling and potentially more long-lasting than a pair of temporary shocks.

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