Bernanke is taking questions at the National Press Club.We’re listening for notable comments.
Q: What’s happening with plans to have regular press conferences on monetary policy?
Bernanke: It’s being discussed.
Q: What’s challenging about the job (from a personal standpoint)?
Bernanke: The economy sucks, and it’s frustrating how long it takes to save the economy.
Q: Do you take credit for the riots in Egypt/Tunisia?
Bernanke: I don’t really know what’s causing the crisis in Egypt. There’s a lot going on there. I don’t accept the premise of the first half of the question. As for food prices, it’s about supply and demand. With food, in particular, there’s been weather issues and supply constraints. And EM demand is blistering. There’s a two speed recovery. It’s entirely unfair to blame EM excess demand on US monetary policy. EM countries have all the tools they need.
Bottom line: The hike in agricultural commodities is about EM demand, not the value of the dollar.
Q: What’s the connection between QE and higher stock prices?
Bernanke: Monetary policy also works through asset prices (which are guided by lower interest rates). So yes, there is a connection. But there’s a virtuous circle of asset prices stimulating economic activity, which then also improves the markets.
Q: Will there be a Q3?
Bernanke: In the end, we’ll just ask the same questions. Where’s the economy going, and what do various inflation indicator look like? We’ll ask those questions. If unemployment is still too low, then we may continue. If we’re moving towards full employment, then we won’t need to stimulate more.
Q: Did the Bush tax cuts change the equation at all?
Bernanke: We figured all this was going to happen. The payroll tax was a bit of a positive surprise. On the margin, we’ll respond.
Q: How long can the US keep borrowing?
Bernanke: For now, the market is pretty confident that there won’t be an issue anytime soon. It’s also clear that it can be done (cutting spending), but the question is whether we have the political will.
Q: What’s the state of the audit the Fed rules?
Bernanke: The Fed is totally open. What some in Congress really want is for the GAO to start examining monetary policy decisions.