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Bernanke: Fed Remains Ready To Act, If Necessary

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the Federal Reserve building on Wednesday.
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the Federal Reserve building on Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is ready to implement "balance sheet actions if necessary."

That means if the Federal Open Market Committee feels that the economic recovery is in danger, it is ready to implement a third round of quantitative easing, or bond purchases intended to bring down long-term interest rates and spur borrowing and spending.

"If appropriate... we remain entirely prepared to take additional action," the chairman said. "We will not hesitate to use them."

Bernanke made the comments today during a press conference that followed two days of FOMC meetings.

The committee released a statement earlier today in which it said that the U.S. economy is "expanding moderately" and that it "expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually."

Still Bernanke said, the unemployment rate remains high and the economy is still being hampered by some "headwinds," mainly the sluggish housing market.

When asked why the Fed wouldn't take more action to ease the unemployment rate, Bernanke said the Fed is already maintaining "highly accommodative policies" and to risk boosting the inflation rate with further action at this time would be "unwise."

On a vote of 9 to 1, the FOMC decided to keep interest rates on overnight loans near 0 percent at least through 2014.

Update at 3:06 p.m. ET. Some More Highlights:

Here are a few more highlights from Bernanke's press conference:

-- At the end of the year, the United States is facing a "fiscal cliff." That is if Congress doesn't act, current law demands major tax increases and spending cuts that Bernanke said pose a "significant risk" to the recovery.

Also, he added, it's something so big that the Fed could do little "to keep it from affecting the economy."

-- Bernanke said the unemployment rate will be an "important consideration" when deciding policy. If it "stops making progress," the Fed could decide on further action.

-- Bernanke shared his hypothesis on the accelerated growth in jobs we've seen lately. He said he expects the unemployment rate to decrease at a slower rate, because what we've seen so far could be a "one-time catch up."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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