Ben hits back at Fed critics

FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hit back on Friday at critics of the US central bank’s bond-buying programme and issued a thinly veiled attack on China’s policy of keeping its currency on a leash.

By Gavin Jones And Mark Felsenthal (Reuters)

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Published: Sat 20 Nov 2010, 11:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:32 AM

Bernanke, facing a chorus of protests about the asset-buying spree from within and outside the central bank, said a more vigourous US economy was essential to fuel the global recovery and dismissed charges he was debasing the dollar.

“The best way to continue to deliver the strong economic fundamentals that underpin the value of the dollar, as well as to support the global recovery, is through policies that lead to a resumption of robust growth in a context of price stability in the US,” Bernanke said in a speech to a conference at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

The Fed’s November 3 decision to buy a further $600 billion in US government debt with new money generated outrage among policymakers in many nations, who accused the United States of seeking to weaken the dollar to gain an export edge.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the policy “clueless” while domestic critics have argued the policy could ignite inflation and fuel asset bubbles. Fed officials circled their wagons this week to defend the programme. Two added their endorsement on Thursday, but another expressed opposition and a fourth said monetary policy should not play the main role in driving a stronger recovery.

Structural adjustments

“Deficits and surpluses are generated by many countries’ behaviour not a single currency,” Bernanke said in a later panel discussion with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet. “It will be very difficult for exchange rates by themselves to restore the balance and so I think structural adjustments on both sides are necessary,” Bernanke said.

Addressing international criticism of the Fed’s action, Bernanke said much of the recent weakness of the dollar reflected an unwinding of the increases that were notched as investors fled to the safety of the greenback during the European sovereign debt crisis in the spring.

Many emerging economies have worried that volatile investment inflows sparked by the dollar’s decline could be destabilising — either fuelling inflation or asset bubbles.

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