It occurs to me that there are an awful lot of folks in the financial services industry, as well as, associated with "financial news" outlets that seem to take what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says as gospel and predicative. Now I'm not trying to pick on the Fed Chairman. I would merely like to have folks please stop holding out Fed statements as if they have some significant predicative value.
Here are few musings from Mr. Bernanke, which as it turns out, were a bit less than accurate or not all that prescient:
#1 (October 20, 2005) "House prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years. Although speculative activity has increased in some areas, at a national level these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals."
#2 (On 60 Minutes in response to a question about what would have happened if the Federal Reserve had not "bailed out" the U.S. economy) "Unemployment would be much, much higher. It might be something like it was in the Depression. Twenty-five percent."
#3 (February 15, 2006) "Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise."
#4 (January 10, 2008) "The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession."
#5 (When asked directly during a congressional hearing if the Federal Reserve would monetize U.S. government debt) "The Federal Reserve will not monetize the debt."
#6 "One myth that's out there is that what we're doing is printing money. We're not printing money."
#7 "The money supply is not changing in any significant way. What we're doing is lowering interest rates by buying Treasury securities."
#8 (November 21, 2002) "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost."
#9 (March 28, 2007) "At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency."
#10 (July, 2005) "We've never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don't think it's gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though."
#11 "Although low inflation is generally good, inflation that is too low can pose risks to the economy - especially when the economy is struggling."
#12 (February 15, 2007) "Despite the ongoing adjustments in the housing sector, overall economic prospects for households remain good. Household finances appear generally solid, and delinquency rates on most types of consumer loans and residential mortgages remain low."
#13 (October 31, 2007) "It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve - nor would it be appropriate - to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions."
#14 (On the possibility that the Fed might launch QE3) "Oh, it's certainly possible. And again, it depends on the efficacy of the program. It depends on inflation. And finally it depends on how the economy looks."
#15 (November 15, 2005) "With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly."
#16 (January 18, 2008) "[The U.S. economy] has a strong labor force, excellent productivity and technology, and a deep and liquid financial market that is in the process of repairing itself."
#17 "I wish I'd been omniscient and seen the crisis coming."
#18 (May 17, 2007) "All that said, given the fundamental factors in place that should support the demand for housing, we believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system. The vast majority of mortgages, including even subprime mortgages, continue to perform well. Past gains in house prices have left most homeowners with significant amounts of home equity, and growth in jobs and incomes should help keep the financial obligations of most households manageable."
#19 "The GSEs are adequately capitalized. They are in no danger of failing."
#20 (Two months before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed and were nationalized) "They will make it through the storm."
#21 (September 23rd, 2008) "My interest is solely for the strength and recovery of the U.S. economy."
#22 "Economics has many substantive areas of knowledge where there is agreement but also contains areas of controversy. That's inescapable."
#23 "I don't think that Chinese ownership of U.S. assets is so large as to put our country at risk economically."
#24 "We've been very, very clear that we will not allow inflation to rise above 2 percent."
#25 "...inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate in the longer run."
#26 (June 10, 2008) "The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so."
#27 "Not all information is beneficial."
#28 "The financial crisis appears to be mostly behind us, and the economy seems to have stabilized and is expanding again."
#29 "Similarly, the mandate-consistent inflation rate--the inflation rate that best promotes our dual objectives in the long run--is not necessarily zero; indeed, Committee participants have generally judged that a modestly positive inflation rate over the longer run is most consistent with the dual mandate."
#30 (October 4, 2006) "If current trends continue, the typical U.S. worker will be considerably more productive several decades from now. Thus, one might argue that letting future generations bear the burden of population aging is appropriate, as they will likely be richer than we are even taking that burden into account."
Doug Hendee, CFP(R)
(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).