La Fed contre les financiers ?

Dans son discours du 31 août à Jackson Hole dans le Wyoming, lors de la conférence internationale de politique monétaire la plus importante au monde, Ben Bernanke, le président de la Réserve fédérale américaine (la Fed), a expliqué tranquillement pourquoi cette dernière est déterminée à résister aux pressions pour stopper la chute des actions et des prix de l'immobilier. Sa position de principe - semblable à celle de Jean-Claude Trichet, le président de la Banque centrale européenne, et de Mervyn King, celui de la Banque d'Angleterre - a déclenché une tempête sur les marchés, habitués à voir Alan Greenspan, le prédécesseur de Bernanke, voler à leur secours et à ne pas lésiner sur les dépenses en leur faveur.

Les enjeux de cette partie de poker sont considérables, avec des sommes colossales à la clé, les marchés financiers mondiaux représentant 170 000 milliards de dollars. Les investisseurs qui considéraient Greenspan comme une garantie à leur égard n'hésitent pas à le payer en millions de dollars pour donner des conférences. Mais qui a raison, Bernanke ou Greenspan ? Les banques centrales ou les marchés ?

Un retour en arrière permet de situer le contexte du débat d'aujourd'hui. Bernanke, qui est à la tête de la Fed depuis 2006, s'est engagé en 1999 dans une carrière politique avec un brillant exposé lors de la conférence de Jackson Hole de cette année là. En tant qu'universitaire, il avait alors déclaré que les banques centrales devaient veiller à ne pas trop anticiper les hauts et les bas du marché des valeurs. Elles doivent ignorer les fluctuations de la Bourse et de l'immobilier, sauf s'il est certain que cela aura des conséquences dangereuses sur la production et le taux d'inflation.

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