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United States: Mr. Bernanke Once Again

This morning at 8:30 a.m. ET Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke released testimony given to a Congressional Committee at 10 a.m. ET this morning. As I read the testimony (and I suggest you visit Testimony, July 17, 2013 and form your own conclusions) Mr. Bernanke has done nothing to dispel my now months-long view that the Federal Reserve has no 'wiggle room' and really has no idea how to do other than 'ride out the current economic storm' by staying on its no-interest, quantitative easing course while hoping that the U.S. economy does not get hit by one or more 'rogue waves'.

Interestingly, Mr. Bernanke did not revisit the concern he expressed on May 22 when he said he was concerned about:

  • the risk (which Mr. Bernanke described as a "cost") he specifically said is "one that we take very seriously"; that
  • if very low interest rates persist for "too long" (which he didn't define) that "could undermine financial stability"; where
  • "for example, investors or portfolio managers dissatisfied with low returns may 'reach for yield' by taking on more credit risk, duration risk, or leverage".

See my May 23 commentary Bernanke: Yesterday's congressional address.

As I see things:

  • the 'tools' that Mr. Bernanke stated today to be available to the Fed are chipped, rusty, and so well used that it is no longer possible to sharpen them;
  • in the aftermath of the U.S. equity markets response to his May 22 congressional address, it has occurred to Mr. Bernanke it is better for him to 'paint the best picture he can', and that he ought to stay away from saying or implying anything the U.S. financial markets might not like;
  • I continue to think his continued reference (again this morning) to 'easing of financial stresses in Europe' doesn't look good on him. I can't imagine he goes to bed every night with a satisfied smile on his face thinking that economic conditions in Europe have improved since last fall; and,
  • Mr. Bernanke seems from his words to think the United States is more of an economic island in a globalized world than I think it is.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 are up marginally at 2:00 p.m. ET today.

Please visit our Economic Straight Talk website and complete the poll question 'Are the Financial Markets Disconnected from the Macro-economy' found in the website's right navigation column.

For an alternate (and less detailed) view read Federal Reserve's Ben Bernanke aims to reassure markets.

Testimony, July 17, 2013 - reading time 5 minutes (Federal Reserve). Federal Reserve's Ben Bernanke aims to reassure markets - reading time 2 minutes (BBC News).


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