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In Jackson Hole Speech, Bernanke Signals More Vigilant Fed

The market falls, then rallies following his remarks

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Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke began giving a much-anticipated speech at Jackson Hole at 10 a.m. Friday. His speech comes at the annual retreat for the Federal Reserve, where top officials and Wall Street bankers discuss economic policy. In it, Bernanke "gave his strongest indication yet that the Fed was ready to resume its large purchases of longer-term debt if the economy worsened," as Sewell Chan of The New York Times reports. A copy of the remarks circulated early, and the first round of reaction appears below.

  • What People Were Looking For  Four key words and phrases, explains Time's Stephen Gandel: "1) inflation, 2) slower than expected (the recovery that is), 3) deflation, 4) extended (rates being low that is)." He adds that Bernanke "us[ing] the D-word ... [would] be major news." Writing before the remarks were released, though, he predicts that it wouldn't happen and that, "instead," we would hear a lot on the "slower than expected" theme.
  • Unconventional Measures Upstaged by Intel, says Barron's Tiernan Ray. Intel "cutting its outlook at precisely the time Ben's notes were being released" wound up being bigger news for the market. Still, he and others highlight Bernanke's assertion that the Fed is "prepared to provide ... unconventional measures if it  proves necessary." Such moves might include "buying more long-term securities," for instance.
  • Markets Dive: The Reason Why  "The big disappointment," explains Business Insider's Gregory White, "is that Bernanke did no announce any new measures, but, considering the venue, that was always the likely result." In his view, the other highlights were Bernanke's "[indication] that the Fed had the monetary tools to combat deflation, outlining many of the tools it had already mentioned," and his declaration that "unemployment recovery is going to be slow."
  • And Then Markets Rally  "Ben Bernanke gave a mediocre speech, and Intel just cut its revenue expectations and yet... stocks are up!" exclaims Joe Weisenthal, also at Business Insider, observing the later jump. "That's pretty surprising and remarkable," he says. "It doesn't mean that we're on the cusp of a big rally, but it is telling about the short-term swings of sentiment."
  • 'Is This It, Ben?' Asks Joseph Cotterill at the Financial Times blog Alphaville. The remarks are "diffident, at best," he writes.
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