Bernankespeak, Translated

Authored by Jonathan Weil (@JonathanWeil), originally posted at Bloomberg,

Until now, I have refrained from trying to explain Fedspeak to the masses. The truth is it's not opaque. It's not indecipherable. It's simple. Or at least you can choose to believe it is, as I have.

At last week’s press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke fielded questions from reporters employed by some of the world's most esteemed news organizations. Here is a summary, translated from Fedspeak into ordinary American English and heavily condensed for easy tweeting. (Compare it to a raw transcript, if you like.)

BERNANKE: Good afternoon. The Federal Open Market Committee concluded a two-day meeting earlier today. The economy has good things and bad things. We're on top of it. QE will continue. Subject to change. It depends.

STEVE LIESMAN, CNBC: Can you clarify something?


LIESMAN: So if unemployment falls to 7 percent, then what?

Bernanke: There are many factors we look at. Next question.

JON HILSENRATH, Wall Street Journal: The Fed has an awful track record of forecasting the economy. You sound optimistic. Why should we believe you now?

BERNANKE: We'll see. If we're wrong, we'll adjust.

ALISTER BULL, Reuters: Could you explain the bond market to me?

BERNANKE: That's a good question. No.

ROBIN HARDING, Financial Times: It's your fault that interest rates soared after you testified to Congress last month. You know that, right?

BERNANKE: Well, we were a little puzzled by that. Our policies depend on a lot of factors.

YLAN MUI, Washington Post: Obama says you've stayed too long. You agree?

BERNANKE: I don’t have anything for you on my personal plans.

CRAIG TORRES, Bloomberg News: We'd like to push for a little deeper explanation on thresholds and triggers.

BERNANKE: I'm sure you would.

BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, New York Times: I want to talk about thresholds and triggers, too.

BERNANKE: Low rates. Large portfolio. Large stimulus. Bringing economy smoothly towards full employment. No costs. No risks. I am the Walrus.

VICTORIA McGRANE, Dow Jones Newswires: Aren't you worried?


PETER COOK, Bloomberg Television: Won't your exit strategy be hard?


DONNA BORAK, American Banker: When are you going to pass all those new rules under Dodd-Frank?


BORAK: That wasn't a yes-or-no question.

BERNANKE: Who knows? Takes time.

PETER BARNES, Fox Business Network: Why aren't you going to Jackson Hole?

BERNANKE: Stop asking me personal questions.

STEVE BECKNER, Market News International: It's June 2013. You haven't even begun to scale back asset purchases. What's wrong with you? Could you elaborate?

BERNANKE: There's a range of estimates.

SCOTT SPOERRY, CNN Money: Haven't you messed up the mortgage-backed securities market forever?


SPOERRY: Really?


GREG ROBB, Could you go over that tapering thing again?

BERNANKE: We may do more. We may do less.

RYAN AVENT, the Economist: Mr. Chairman, why aren't you worried about inflation being so low?

BERNANKE: I agree. It's a problem. On it.

KEVIN HALL, McClatchy Newspapers: Is Hilsenrath the real power behind the throne?

BERNANKE: (Silence).

KATE DAVIDSON, Politico: The Securities and Exchange Commission hasn't fixed money-market funds. Why haven't you?

BERNANKE: Why should I?

AKIO FUJII, Nikkei: Why are you killing my country's stock market?

BERNANKE: Hey, blame the Bank of Japan. Not me.

MARK HAMRICK, Why do the other Fed governors let you hold press conferences like this?

BERNANKE: You want me to leave? Okay, fine. Thank you.


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