Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bernanke Testimony Preview

by Bill McBride on 7/20/2010 07:45:00 PM

Tomrrow, starting at 10 AM ET, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will report to the Senate Banking Committee: The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

David Wessel at the WSJ has a preview: The View From Bernanke's Perch at the Fed

Neil Irwin at the WaPo has some comments: Why Wall Street doesn't understand the Fed

Bernanke will very likely tell the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday that cutting [interest on excess reserves] is one of a handful of options that the Fed is evaluating should the economic recovery continue to stumble. The others ... are strengthening its promise to keep interest rates low for an extended period and buying enough mortgage securities to replace those that mature. He will indicate openness to buying more long-term assets, but only if the economy appears to be heading back toward recession.
I doubt Bernanke will mention options for further easing in his prepared statement, however he will probably be asked about what options are available in the Q&A. As Andrew Tilton at Goldman Sachs noted yesterday: "Any commentary on easing options seems more likely to come in the question-and-answer session rather than prepared remarks. One way for Chairman Bernanke to keep specific ideas at arm’s length might be to couch them in terms of a discussion of what other central banks have done."

I think Bernanke will mention the recent weak economic data in his prepared testimony, and it will interesting to see how he phrases it. As far as policy options, I think the options Irwin mentions are possible - and also possible is setting target ceiling rates for 3 to 5 year Treasury securities (he discussed this in his 2002 speech: Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here).