Defensive. Nervous. Pensive.
That’s how Ben Bernanke came across yesterday during his press conference. In a halting way, he discussed adjusting Fed economic targets, stock-vs-flow theories of balance sheet management, and—the big news—tapering Fed purchases of Treasury and Mortgage-Backed securities. But what was most interesting was what the Fed Chairman didn’t say. Early on he noted that he would not discuss whether he would like to stay on as Fed Chair.
Maybe that’s he’s just shy, or maybe it’s because President Obama noted that he had stayed on longer than “he was supposed to” the day before, but that’s the one question the Chairman seemed ready for. Otherwise, he was edgy and tense, tapping his hand on the podium, half-closing his eyes in an inward gaze as he expounded some of the subtleties of monetary policy.
So why was he nervous? Bernanke’s been an outstanding leader, bringing transparency and collegiality to an arcane and confusing institution. It’s taken a toll, though—his beard has a lot more grey now than it did in 2006. But as someone once said, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” Given the ground he’s covered, Ben just may be ready to leave it behind.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer