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« Former FED Governor Poole Says: "Bernanke Pays Too Much Attention To Stock Prices" (LINKS) | Main | Cohan & Taibbi: Shut Down The SEC And Start Over »
Thursday
Sep082011

Bernanke Speech - Complete Text & Highlights

Here are the headlines courtesy of Bloomberg:

  • BERNANKE: POLICY MAKERS SHOULDN'T DISREGARD ECONOMY'S FRAGILITY
  • BERNANKE SAYS FED HAS `A RANGE OF TOOLS' FOR MORE STIMULUS
  • BERNANKE SAYS SUBSTANTIAL FISCAL TIGHTENING COULD HURT RECOVERY
  • BERNANKE SAYS FED PREPARED TO USE TOOLS `AS APPROPRIATE'
  • BERNANKE SAYS INFLATION `EXPECTED TO MODERATE' IN COMING Q'S
  • BERNANKE SAYS FED SEES `GREATER DOWNSIDE RISKS' TO OUTLOOK
  • BERNANKE: POLICY MAKERS SHOULDN'T DISREGARD ECONOMY'S FRAGILITY
  • BERNANKE: U.S. FINANCES COULD `SPIRAL OUT OF CONTROL'
  • Read excerpted highlights of the speech from Marketwatch

---

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

At the Economic Club of Minnesota Luncheon, Minneapolis, Minnesota

September 8, 2011

The U.S. Economic Outlook

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be in the Twin Cities and would like to thank the Economic Club of Minnesota for inviting me to kick off its 2011-2012 speaker series. Today I will provide a brief overview of the U.S. economic outlook and conclude with a few thoughts on monetary policy and on the longer-term prospects for our economy.

The Outlook for U.S. Economic Growth
In discussing the prospects for the economy and for policy in the near term, it bears recalling briefly how we got here. The financial crisis that gripped global markets in 2008 and 2009 was more severe than any since the Great Depression. Economic policymakers around the world saw the mounting risks of a global financial meltdown in the fall of 2008 and understood the extraordinarily dire economic consequences that such an event could have. Governments and central banks consequently worked forcefully and in close coordination to avert the looming collapse. The actions to stabilize the financial system were accompanied, both in the United States and abroad, by substantial monetary and fiscal stimulus. Despite these strong and concerted efforts, severe damage to the global economy could not be avoided. The freezing of credit, the sharp drops in asset prices, dysfunction in financial markets, and the resulting blows to confidence sent global production and trade into free fall in late 2008 and early 2009.

It has been almost exactly three years since the beginning of the most intense phase of the financial crisis, in the late summer and fall of 2008, and a bit more than two years since the official beginning of the economic recovery, in June 2009, as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee. Where do we stand? There have been some positive developments over the past few years. In the financial sphere, our banking system and financial markets are significantly stronger and more stable. Credit availability has improved for many borrowers, though it remains tight in categories--such as small business lending--in which the balance sheets and income prospects of potential borrowers remain impaired. Importantly, given the sources of the crisis, structural reform is moving forward in the financial sector, with ambitious domestic and international efforts under way to enhance financial regulation and supervision, especially for the largest and systemically most important financial institutions.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped. From recent comprehensive revisions of government economic data, we have learned that the recession was even deeper and the recovery weaker than we had previously thought; indeed, aggregate output in the United States still has not returned to the level that it had attained before the crisis. Importantly, economic growth over the past two years has, for the most part, been at rates insufficient to achieve sustained reductions in the unemployment rate, which has recently been fluctuating a bit above 9 percent.

The pattern of sluggish economic growth was particularly evident in the first half of this year, with real gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to have increased at an annual rate of less than 1 percent, on average, in the first and second quarters. Some of this weakness can be attributed to temporary factors, including the strains put on consumer and business budgets by the run-ups earlier this year in the prices of oil and other commodities and the effects of the disaster in Japan on global supply chains and production. Accordingly, with commodity prices coming off their highs and manufacturers' problems with supply chains well along toward resolution, growth in the second half looks likely to pick up. However, the incoming data suggest that other, more persistent factors also have been holding back the recovery. Consequently, as noted in its statement following the August meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) now expects a somewhat slower pace of recovery over coming quarters than it did at the time of the June meeting, with greater downside risks to the economic outlook.

One striking aspect of the recovery is the unusual weakness in household spending. After contracting very sharply during the recession, consumer spending expanded moderately through 2010, only to decelerate in the first half of 2011. The temporary factors I mentioned earlier--the rise in commodity prices, which has hurt households' purchasing power, and the disruption in manufacturing following the Japanese disaster, which reduced auto availability and hence sales--are partial explanations for this deceleration. But households are struggling with other important headwinds as well, including the persistently high level of unemployment, slow gains in wages for those who remain employed, falling house prices, and debt burdens that remain high for many, notwithstanding that households, in the aggregate, have been saving more and borrowing less. Even taking into account the many financial pressures they face, households seem exceptionally cautious. Indeed, readings on consumer confidence have fallen substantially in recent months as people have become more pessimistic about both economic conditions and their own financial prospects.

Continue reading at the Fed...

 

 

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