Aug. 29 - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces a problem: the economy is not so weak that QE3 is an easy policy move, but not strong enough to take QE3 off the table, leaving investors guessing what he will say at the annual retreat this Friday. Jeanne Yurman reports.
It's show time for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday at an annual economic summit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And he'll have a very keen audience, hungry for word of a third round of monetary stimulus or QE3. But don't expect straightforward confirmation, says Jeremy Lawson, senior economist at BNP Paribas. SOUNDBITE: JEREMY LAWSON, SENIOR U.S. ECONOMIST, BNP PARIBAS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The way he communicates in these speeches is much more subtle. So what we are looking for more is tone of the speech: does it suggest that he still thinks you know that further easing tools can have an impact on the economy? Does he think economy is falling short?" In 2010 Bernanke did use Jackson Hole to telegraph QE2. But another blast of stimulus now is more questionable. The economy has put the Fed in a tricky spot. Since the recession it has been resilient but not necessarily strong. After two huge rounds of monetary stimulus, data released Wednesday shows it's growing but at a mere 1.7 percent. That's not quite the 3.7 percent the central bank once forecast for this year, which would wipe QE3 off the table. But it's weak enough that the Fed has confirmed it's geared up do more. SOUNDBITE: JEREMY LAWSON, SENIOR U.S. ECONOMIST, BNP PARIBAS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think the big question is what type of QE that they unfold. So they do have different options within that space; so, for example a mix of treasuries versus mortgage purchases. How large is the size of quantitative easing? Is it going to be an open ended program or something where they specify the size over a particular period?" New Fed policy will likely not come at Jackson Hole but rather at the Fed's next policy meeting in September. But there's no guarantee that the Fed will act then either. Jeanne Yurman, Reuters.