Nov. 20 - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that the Fed would not be able to do much if the fiscal cliff becomes a reality. Bobbi Rebell reports.
If the fiscal cliff's $600 billion in expiring tax cuts and trillions of dollars in government spending reductions becomes a reality- the Fed won't be able to do much to help according to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who spoke at the Economic Club of New York. SOUNDBITE: FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "In the worst case scenario where the economy goes off the broad fiscal cliff the largest fiscal cliff which according to CBO and our own analysis would throw the economy into recession, I don't think the Fed has the tools to offset that." Stocks, which had been gaining ground on optimism about a potential deal- fell on the comments. S&P Capital IQ's Alec Young: SOUNDBITE: ALEC YOUNG, GLOBAL EQUITY STRATEGIST, S&P CAPITAL IQ (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think at this point what markets want to see is Bernanke jawboning Washington; creating some urgency for them to really get something done on the fiscal cliff." Bernanke also said just the worries about the fiscal cliff have put the brakes on a lot of the economy's potential: SOUNDBITE: FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I really have a sense that there is a lot of unused capability. Not just in terms of unemployed workers but in terms of potential products, new investments, new technologies, things that are just being on the shelf, are not being utilized to the full extent because people are waiting to see how things will evolve." That waiting is costly. IHS Global Insight's Chief U.S. Economist Nigel Gault: SOUNDBITE: NIGEL GAULT, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Businesses will have been concerned with formulating their plans for 2013 - very difficult to do so if you are not sure where government spending is going, if you are not sure where the tax regime is going." And while Bernanke offered no new guidance on bond buying plans, Gault is confident the support will continue. SOUNDBITE: NIGEL GAULT, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The Fed's got this Operation Twist which is going to expire. If it doesn't replace it with something, then effectively its policy would become a little tighter. So we are convinced that it will want, at least for the immediate future, to continue that policy through another form by actually having a program of outright purchases of long-term treasuries to replace the Twist." Bernanke did re-iterate the Fed's guidance that it expects to keep interest rates near zero until mid-2015.