Aug 31 - Fed watchers say Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Friday speech describing unemployment as a “grave concern” is a hint new stimulus will be announced as early as September. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is not stepping back from a pledge to provide additional stimulus to the economy, calling unemployment a "grave concern." That was interpreted by Fed watchers at his speech Friday as a sign the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, will announce more stimulus in coming weeks. Princeton University economist and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder: SOUNDBITE: ALAN BLINDER, PRINCETON ECONOMIST/FORMER FED VICE CHAIRMAN (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think the likely timing is at the next FOMC meeting, which is only two weeks away. You start getting awfully close to the election if you don't do it then. And the biggest thing that we will know then, that they will know then that they don't know now is the next month's employment report. If we get a blockbuster employment report, I mean a lot of jobs more than the market is expecting, that could be a stop sign for the Fed." But economists say the chances of an upside surprise in the August jobs report are small , even with housing looking better and a pick-up in sales at the mall, that's because the economy is only growing at a 1.7 percent rate, says Yelena Shulyateva of BNP Paribas. SOUNDBITE: YELENA SHULYATEVA, U.S. ECONOMIST, BNP PARIBAS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I don't expect any acceleration in growth and without it employment numbers are not going to look much better." Bernanke knows he's facing pushback from those worried about what the Fed's growing $2.3 trillion tab will do to inflation and the economy down the road, and in his speech, admits there are risks to unconventional monetary policy. SOUNDBITE: ALAN BLINDER, PRINCETON ECONOMIST/FORMER FED VICE CHAIRMAN (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Maybe one should interpret that, as a kind of bow to the Hawks saying this is not as easy or as costless as some people would like to say, but as he ran over those costs he was downplaying them, saying there are these potential costs but we don't think any of them are serious, basically." Not serious enough to overshadow unemployment at above 8 percent, a point Bernanke is certain to make when the Fed begins its two-day meeting on September 12th. Conway Gittens, Reuters