Markets await words from Fed's Bernanke

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

BOB MOON: Aside from Libya, of course, we still have our own problems at home -- mainly, the economy. We had a recovery that felt like it wasn't. Now, several Wall Street economists say we're staring another potential recession in the face. What to do? Experts are divided: Should we try more federal spending to stimulate the economy, or just stop the government meddling and let it grow on its own?

Later this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will signal what, if anything, the central bank will try to do to make everyone happy. Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports.


HEIDI MOORE: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has picked up several nicknames: Big Ben, The Bearded One.

Quincy Krosby is a strategist for Prudential Financial, and she likes another nickname.

QUINCY KROSBY: Ben Bernanke has become the "Market Whisperer," if you will. When he speaks, the market listens.

The markets will be listening when Bernanke speaks at a gathering of economists later this week. And what do they want to hear?

PETER BOOCKVAR: If you're in the market, you want to hear Bernanke throw more money from the sky. You want him to do something to save you.

That's Peter Boockvar, an equity strategist with Miller Tabak. He thinks the Fed is trying too hard to please the markets. Last year, Bernanke signaled a plan to buy $600 billion of Treasury bonds to force down interest rates. This year, the Fed's ability to deliver another market-moving stimulus is dubious.

KROSBY: In essence, what the market wants to hear is, does the Federal Reserve have any more viable tools in the toolkit that can actually help the economy?

The Fed has already promised the markets' favorite stimulus -- interest rates near zero -- for two more years. How does the Fed top that? It doesn't.

KROSBY: Perhaps he comes out and says, 'Ladies and gentlemen, that was my present to the markets. I'm leaving rates low for a very long time.'

Some worry that we're expecting too much from the Fed. For really big changes to the economy, Congress will also need to pull its levers.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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