Bernanke Says Sluggish Economy Warrants Continued Low Interest Rates

By Sarah Borchersen-Keto, CCH Washington News Bureau, Contributing Author, the CCH Federal Banking Law Reporter, June 7, 2011.

While the U.S. economy is moving in the “right direction,” it is still producing at levels well below its potential, making it necessary for low interest rates to persist, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said June 7, 2011.

“Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established,” Bernanke said in a speech to the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta, Ga. He noted that the Federal Open Market Committee continues to anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant “exceptionally low levels” for the federal funds rate for an extended time period.

“Overall, the economic recovery appears to be continuing at a moderate pace, albeit at a rate that is both uneven across sectors and frustratingly slow from the perspective of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers,” Bernanke said.

Meanwhile, Bernanke told the conference that while the recent increase in inflation is a concern, “the appropriate diagnosis and policy response depend on whether the rise in inflation is likely to persist.” He noted that so far there is little evidence that inflation is becoming broad-based or ingrained in the economy. In fact, he said, gasoline price gains account for the bulk of the recent increase in consumer prices.