Bernanke near inflation target prize, but jobs a concern

Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:36pm EST
 
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By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve could take the historic step this week of announcing an explicit target for inflation, a move that would fulfill a multi-year quest of the central bank's chairman, Ben Bernanke.

An inflation target would be the capstone of Bernanke's crusade to improve the Fed's communications, an initiative aimed at making the central bank more effective at controlling growth and inflation. It would, at long last, bring the Fed into line with a policy framework used by most other major central banks.

Bernanke has made clearer communications a hallmark of his leadership, and bit by bit, he has worked to cast light on what for years had been purposefully opaque and secretive deliberations.

He has even given the campaign a personal stamp, contrasting his plainspoken and unaffected persona with that of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, whose ruminations were notoriously oblique and who was associated with an aloof cadre of policy mandarins.

While Bernanke has touted a numerical inflation goal as a cornerstone of central bank best practices for years, the idea has become timely because it could help quell nagging doubts that the Fed's unprecedented easy money policies are setting the stage for a nasty bout of inflation.

The U.S. economy strengthened toward the end of last year, with job growth accelerating and the unemployment rate dropping to a near three-year low of 8.5 percent.

But the recovery is not expected to retain the momentum.

By announcing a target, the Fed could smooth the path to another round of bond buying should the recovery falter.   Continued...

 
<p>Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivers opening remarks at a conference on "Small Business and Entrepreneurship during an Economic Recovery" at the Federal Reserve in Washington, November 9, 2011. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang</p>