20080227 bernanke report 18
US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke delivers his semi-annual report on the economy to the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, DC on February 27, 2008. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: What we really ought to do here is just pull out the tape of the show from a month and a half ago, because there was a certain amount of deja vu all over again this morning. The chairman of the Federal Reserve went up to Capitol Hill and he said some not-so-promising things about the economy.

BEN BERNANKE: A critical task for the Federal Reserve over the course of this year will be to assess whether the stance of policy is properly calibrated to foster our mandated objectives of maximum employment and price stability in an environment of downside risks to growth, stressed financial conditions and inflation pressures.

Allow me to parse, if I might. When he said "stance of monetary policy" that means he's still deciding whether or not to cut interest rates, although he gave every indication today that he will -- maybe. We called economist Brian Bethune, at the research firm Global Insight, to get his take.

BRIAN BETHUNE: He's not promising that the Fed will reduce rates, but he's also sending a message to the markets that he's not dissuading the markets from the current view, which is that the Fed will cut rates on March 18 by 50 basis points.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal