BERKELEY – US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke is not regarded as an oracle in the way that his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was before the financial crisis. But financial markets were glued to the speech he gave in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 26. What they heard was a bit of a muddle.
First of all, Bernanke did not propose any further easing of monetary policy to support the stalled recovery – or, rather, the non-recovery. Second, he assured his listeners that “we expect a moderate recovery to continue and indeed to strengthen.” This is because “[h]ouseholds also have made some progress in repairing their balance sheets – saving more, borrowing less, and reducing their burdens of interest payments and debt.” Moreover, falling commodity prices will also “help increase household purchasing power.”