Econoday has a really nice summary of the Fed Chief’s comments in case you are looking for a recap:
“During Q&A, Fed Chairman Bernanke addressed a number of issues.
When asked whether the Fed is “closer” to QE3, Bernanke recapped Fed actions indicating aggressive policy, but he essentially dodged the question indicating that the Fed will continue to assess the economy, will assess costs and benefits, but additional easing is “still on the table.”
On whether inflation has come down as expected, Bernanke repeated that Q1 movement in inflation is due to transitory sources and that he expects inflation to be at or below 2 percent by the end of 2012.
Regarding the “bias” of the FOMC, Bernanke sees current policy as “accommodative” and supported by a 9 to 1 vote at today’s FOMC. But if the outlook strengthens, the committee will have to respond.
A question was asked whether individual forecasts for the fed funds rate are inconsistent with guidance for low rates through 2014. But he sees the committee as comfortable with guidance language.
Bernanke noted that the U.S. is not in deflation as was the case for Japan 15 years ago. Since the U.S. is not in deflation, additional accommodation is not needed although monetary policy is extraordinarily accommodative currently.
Regarding fiscal policy, if Congress does not address fiscal contraction coming in January (tax increases and spending cuts), he noted it would increase risks to the economy.
On the Fed forecasts, it was asked why growth was downgrade for 2013 and 2014 although 2012 was upgraded. He suggested that it may be due to fiscal issues.
Bernanke stated that progress can be made on unemployment without inflation being above target.
On European sovereign debt issues, Bernanke said the statement’s comments were merely intended to be descriptive. He notes that Europeans have made substantial progress on debt issues, including a financial firewall to reduce the likelihood of contagion. Bernanke indicated that more work is still to be done in Europe.
Too big to fail was raised as a question on where the Fed is on this currently. Bernanke said the Fed is working to get rid of TBTF and is making progress. This includes Basil III rules, stress tests, and a range of regulatory rules. He indicated that there must be the ability for a large institution to fail in an orderly manner and Dodd-Frank is helping to get there. He notes that government safety nets for banks have been cut back.
Regarding whether a 1 percent fed funds rate would be considered “exceptionally low,” Bernanke indicated that the statement is intentionally vague but he personally believes that exceptionally low means about where we are now.
When Operation Twist ends, the Fed chairman expects little impact on interest rates.
On whether the Fed should “declare victory” and move toward preventing an asset bubble, Bernanke said that it is “a little premature” to declare victory and that low rates are still appropriate.
On the issue of mild weather possibly impacting job growth, the Fed chief said that weather can make it difficult to make a real time assessment of the economy. He noted that warm winter weather likely pulled forward some economic activity and that the Fed is looking into the impact. He noted that there is a hypothesis that recent gains reflect catch up from large cuts during the recession and that future near-term gains may not be as strong. Still, he would not draw much of a conclusion from the March jobs numbers. But the possibility exists of a virtuous circle that job growth will strengthen.”