Bernanke’s Unguarded Comment Triggers Market Melee
Many are asking what Fed chief Ben Bernanke is playing at by pulling the rug from under the fragile global economic recovery.
Although some regions are booming, plenty of countries are still in trouble and could easily revert from sluggish growth into grim recession.
The US and many European economies are among them.
So the fact that Bernanke opted to tell the world the US Fed is considering ‘tapering off’ quantitative easing that is propping up the US recovery is all the more perplexing.
The Fed is pumping around £55 billion a month into the economy in a bid to boost employment and growth.
But with just a few words, Bernanke undermined months of slow, hard progress towards recovery.
Stock markets around the world reacted badly.
British FTSE100 companies were devalued by £48 billion as the London Stock Exchange lost 3%.
The bad news rippled around the world – markets in France and Germany saw losses of 2.5%, Japan slipped 1.75% and China by just over 3%. Turkey continued in decline – losing just over a fifth in value since peaking in May.
Many other markets fell back to their lowest levels for six months or so.
The DOW saw heavy losses as more than 400 points were lost in 24 hours.
What Bernanke actually said was not quantitative easing is ending, but no sudden exit is on the cards, but the money purchase program could end early next year, when interest rates are likely to rise.
The comment was taken as a heads up by the market that the cost of borrowing is likely to go up next year.
Ready to exit
In reality, all these hints and divinations may not mean a lot.
The whisper in the corridors of power in Washington say President Obama is unlikely to spend a lot of effort persuading Bernanke to stay in his chair when his term is up in January 2014.
That means a new hand on the tiller of the US economy and quantitative easing program, and whoever the new Fed helmsman is may have completely different ideas to Bernanke.
Some analysts tried to divert some of the heat from the Fed chairman by pointing out that lower than expected Chinese manufacturing figures also spooked the markets.
In the melee, the Indian Rupee also slumped to a new low against the Dollar, prompting the government to promise action to prop up the ailing currency.