Bernanke Says Interest Rates to Stay Low for Extended Period

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In the Fed's semiannual report to Congress, Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that rates will stay low for an extended period. How long is an extended period? Certainly through 2010 and perhaps longer in my opinion.

Here's what Bernanke had to say in his prepared statement:

“Although the federal funds rate is likely to remain exceptionally low for an extended period, as the expansion matures, the Federal Reserve will at some point need to begin to tighten monetary conditions to prevent the development of inflationary pressures."

In other words, rates are staying rock bottom until the economy shows that it has some life. And that certainly hasn't happened recently. In his remarks, he said that much of the pick-up at the end of last year was attributed to companies repleneshing inventories and not due to an increase in demand.

“As the impetus provided by the inventory cycle is temporary, and as the fiscal support for economic growth likely will diminish later this year, a sustained recovery will depend on continued growth in private-sector final demand for goods and services,” he said.

There were a couple of very interesting and almost humorous exchanges, humorous in a pathetic way. Ron Paul, the arch-nemesis of the Fed insinuated that the Fed had helped finance the 1972 Watergate break-in as well as bankrolled Saddam Hussein. Bernanke replied:

“The specific allegations you have made are absolutely bizarre. I have no knowledge of anything remotely like what you’ve described.”

Both the allegations and the response made me chuckle.

And then I also sat and watched as Congressmen and Congresswomen botched basic economics, confusing the Discount Window with the Federal Funds Rate. One representative (a woman whose name I did not catch) kept pressing Bernanke to release the names of banks who borrowed from the Discount Window in the name of transparency. That of course, would defeat the very purpose of the Discount Window,which is to help stave off a financial panic. What bank is going to borrow if the fact they are borrowing becomes public knowledge?

It's sometimes scary to listen to the testimony and realize just how little our legislators understand how the financial system works.

Sol Nasisi
Sol Nasisi: Sol Nasisi is the co-founder and a past president of BestCashCow, an online resource for comprehensive bank rate information. In this capacity, he closely followed rate trends for all savings-related and loan products and the impact of rate fluctuations on the economy. He specifically focused on how rates impact consumers' ability to borrow and save. He also has authored a wee

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