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Bernanke Says Recession Over; Should You Care?

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On September 16, 2009 @ 6:00 am In Economy,Federal Reserve,Really, really bad calls | Comments Disabled

Ben Bernanke has declared the recession over.

This leads to one simple question: Why should you care what his recession forecasts are?

Based on his track record as a forecaster and his acumen in identifying economic problems before they exploded, his views on starts and finishes of recessions are, to be blunt, irrelevant.

Recall it was Mr. Bernanke who described the sub-prime situation as “Contained;” it was he who believed Housing would not spill over to the broader economy; and it was he who somehow thought the Bear Stearns situation was a one-off.

I don’t wish to single out Mr. Bernanke; After all, he is an economist, and if you were paying attention, you will note that the entire profession missed the oncoming recession, credit crisis and market collapse. You may also find it helpful to ignore what the profession that cannot forecast yesterday thinks about tomorrow.

Even now, the Federal Reserve Chairman said the recession was “very likely over” as consumers showed some of the first tangible signs of spending again. Never mind that all this retail activity has been driven by government subsidies.

Now, as an investor, you do want to be mindful of the Fed Chief’s economic views, particularly how they pertain to his interest rate policies. The ed has made it clear rates are staying low for the foreseeable future, so this becomes a non-issue in this context.

But his economic forecasts? Don’t bother.

Note that I have not been a particularly harsh critic of the Fed Chair. While he may not be Paul Volcker, he is also (thankfully) not Alan Greenspan.  And we could have done much worse than having a student of the Great Depression, who is also  an out-of-the-box thinker as Fed Chief.

But as a prognosticator? He is no better than his predeccessor . . .

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Sources:
Bernanke: Recession ‘Likely Over’
SARA MURRAY and ANN ZIMMERMAN
WSJ, SEPTEMBER 16, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125301730771311713.html

Fed Chief Says Recession Is ‘Very Likely Over’
STEPHEN LABATON
NYT, SEPTEMBER 15, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/business/economy/16bernanke.html


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