Another Duality We Just Cannot Afford

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I spoke yesterday about a duality that exists when Central Bank figure heads, like Ben Bernanke and Jean-Claude Trichet of the US and EU Central Banks, Respectively, straddle political affiliations with fair representations of their economies.

My assessment yesterday was that both of them have toned down their views to appeal to a political agenda, rather than giving accurate interpretations of what is going on. One week they say this, and one week they say that was the thought.

Yet, after Chairman Bernanke gave his report to Congress yesterday, he seemed to play both cards on the same day – in the span of an hour, in front of the same panel, painting optimism and caution all at once.

In his remarks, the Fed Chairman said that he believes that the economy is moving along well for the situation and that he feels that the US can and will see growth in the coming months – that the recovery is poised to begin in the latter part of 2009.

Yet, only 15 minutes later he began to speak of a high unemployment rate, one that is at levels that were unanticipated, one that is expected to continue to grow through the end of the year.

He also spoke of a tight credit market which is squeezing consumers, even ones who traditionally have had great credit are finding it hard to manage in this climate. He spoke of record low real-estate prices which inhibit refinancing and have caused many relying on income from property bought at high prices to take monthly losses from leases and rental agreements.

As Mr. Bernanke spoke, the Dollar, which was down most of the day on a continued risk appetite rally, turned upward, then downward, then upward again – as if the Forex traders and those Forex online professionals tracking his words on the internet could not figure out where he was going.

This is a problem, a big one as I see it, because Mr. Bernanke’s role was, traditionally, to sober up the euphoria that exists or confirm that all is OK – not paint two pictures with one speech.

His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was noted for his “party-pooping” ways – not giving in the political agenda’s of the administrations he served under – he served four presidents from Reagan to Bush 2.

Greenspan called the internet bubble two years before it happened – “irrational exuberance” he called the fervor with which public offerings were being valuated. He criticized presidential policy when he thought it was harming the economy – like with his testimony in Congress over Bill Clinton’s proposed health care reform – which ultimately failed before it even got to a vote in Congress.

This is the kind of honest and unbiased judgments the Central Bank chair needs to give – and what Bernanke did was coddle the administration of Obama, colluding with them so as not to cause any panic that might jeopardize Obama’s policy initiatives.

Forex traders are becoming less trustful of the Central Bank heads, and it is a problem as this is how fundamental trading is done. It used to be a reliable source of information that would directly affect the currencies of a specific country – now it is taken in stride like a stump speech before an election.

Obama is looking to overhaul the Health Care system by pushing through a bill that will cost more than 1 Trillion Dollar according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This is a bill he has even acknowledged that he has not read – and is making contradictory statements about what it contains because he really has no idea what is in it.

A dire economic outlook would kill it – and trust me, it is losing support by the day right now. Bernanke for his part, is up for re-nomination in January. It is widely expected that Obama’s senior political advisor, Larry Summers, will be the one tapped for the role instead of Bernanke, who was a Bush 2 appointee.

Bernanke would serve his job better, serve the people of America better and serve the Forex traders better if he would focus on his current job, and not worry about keeping it come next year. Chances are, he is not even in the running now anyway, and all this back and forth to help Obama is not going to change that.


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