Financial Regulatory Forum

U.S. Fed chief sees growth prospects, “urgent” regulatory reform need

By Reuters Staff
August 21, 2009

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington July 22, 2009. (FILE) WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (Reuters) – Following are highlights from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s prepared speech to be delivered at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

BERNANKE ON CURRENT STATE OF ECONOMY
“After contracting sharply over the past year, economic activity appears to be leveling out, both in the United States and abroad, and the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good. … The economic recovery is likely to be relatively slow at first, with unemployment declining only gradually from high levels.”

ON REGULATORY REFORM
“We must urgently address structural weaknesses in the financial system, in particular in the regulatory framework, to ensure that the enormous costs of the past two years will not be borne again.”

ON LIQUIDITY RISK MANAGEMENT
“In particular, the experience has underscored that liquidity risk management is as essential as capital adequacy and credit and market risk management, particularly during times of intense financial stress.
“Among other objectives, liquidity guidelines must take into account the risks that inadequate liquidity planning by major financial firms pose for the broader financial system, and they must ensure that these firms do not become excessively reliant on liquidity support from the central bank.”

ON CURRENT STATE OF MARKETS
“Overall, the policy actions implemented in recent months have helped stabilize a number of key financial markets, both in the United States and abroad. Short-term funding markets are functioning more normally, corporate bond issuance has been strong, and activity in some previously moribund securitization markets has picked up. Stock prices have partially recovered, and U.S. mortgage rates have declined markedly since last fall. Critically, fears of financial collapse have receded substantially.”

ON FAILURE OF LEHMAN BROTHERS
“Concerted government attempts to find a buyer for the company or to develop an industry solution proved unavailing, and the company’s available collateral fell well short of the amount needed to secure a Federal Reserve loan of sufficient size to meet its funding needs. As the Federal Reserve cannot make an unsecured loan, and as the government as a whole lacked appropriate resolution authority or the ability to inject capital, the firm’s failure was, unfortunately, unavoidable.”

ON RESCUE OF AIG
“In contrast, in the case of the insurance company American International Group, the Federal Reserve judged that the company’s financial and business assets were adequate to secure an $85 billion line of credit, enough to avert its imminent failure. Because AIG was counterparty to many of the world’s largest financial firms, a significant borrower in the commercial paper market and other public debt markets, and a provider of insurance products to tens of millions of customers, its abrupt collapse likely would have intensified the crisis substantially further, at a time when the U.S. authorities had not yet obtained the necessary fiscal resources to deal with a massive systemic event.”

ON COORDINATED POLICY RESPONSE IN OCTOBER 2008
“This strong and unprecedented international policy response proved broadly effective. Critically, it averted the imminent collapse of the global financial system, an outcome that seemed all too possible to the finance ministers and central bankers that gathered in Washington on Oct. 10.”

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