Bernanke Predicts Recession To End In 2009
The stock market jumped over 200 points today, partly due to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s optimistic comments to the Senate Banking Committee. Some selected comments by the Chairman follow:
“If actions taken by the administration, the Congress and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability — and only if that is the case, in my view — there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery”.
Mr. Bernanke also sounded optimistic on housing as well, although without a specific time projection for recovery.
“I would anticipate some stabilization in the housing market going forward.”
Mr. Bernanke seemed to dismiss the need for bank nationalization stating that:
“I don’t see any reason to destroy the franchise value or to create the huge legal uncertainties of trying to formally nationalize a bank when that just isn’t necessary”.
Better financial market performance was also seen by the Chairman:
“I do believe that once the economy begins to recover, we will see improvement in the financial market.”
Mr. Bernanke also stressed his commitment to provide ample amounts of credit for all purposes:
“Our objective is to improve the function of private credit markets so that people can borrow for all kinds of purposes.”
Mr. Bernanke did temper his optimistic statements by noting that his forecast
“is subject to considerable uncertainty, and I believe that, overall, the downside risks probably outweigh those on the upside.”
If the downside risks outweigh those on the upside, how can Bernanke be so optimistic for a recovery in stocks, housing and the economy?? Based on the confusion and conflicting signals, let’s examine some previous comments by the Chairman for perspective on his batting average as an economic prophet.
Previous Forecasts By The Chairman
“At present, my baseline outlook involves a period of sluggish growth, followed by a somewhat stronger pace of growth starting later this year as the effects of monetary and fiscal stimulus begin to be felt.”
—February 14, 2008
The U.S. federal budget deficit has declined recently and is officially projected to improve further over the next few years. Unfortunately… the United States has already reached the leading edge of major demographic changes that will result in an older population and a more slowly growing workforce. A major effort to increase public and private saving is needed to prepare for the economic consequences of this demographic transition and to address external imbalances. As the global perspective makes clear, the reduction of the U.S. current account deficit also requires efforts on the part of the surplus countries to reduce the excess of their desired saving over desired investment.
—September 11, 2007
“Overall, the U.S. economy appears likely to expand at a moderate pace over the second half of 2007, with growth then strengthening a bit in 2008 to a rate close to the economy’s underlying trend.”
—July 18, 2007
“We will follow developments in the subprime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the subprime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system.”
—June 5, 2007
“We at the Federal Reserve will do all that we can to prevent fraud and abusive lending and to ensure that lenders employ sound underwriting practices and make effective disclosures to consumers. At the same time, we must be careful not to inadvertently suppress responsible lending or eliminate refinancing opportunities for subprime borrowers.”
—May 17, 2007
“The information, expertise, and powers that the Fed derives from its supervisory authority enhance its ability to contribute to efforts to prevent financial crises; and, when financial stresses emerge and public action is warranted, the Fed is able to respond more quickly, more effectively, and in a more informed way than would otherwise be possible. “
—January 5, 2007
No need to assign a grade letter to the Chairman, but maybe we should hold off on celebrating the economic recovery.