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Bernanke Comments While Greenspan Gets Paid

Bernanke’s first presentation before Congress as Fed Chair indicated that interest rates may need to go higher.

Text of Bernanke’s testimony before House panel [MarketWatch] [1]

The WSJ provided some analysis of his remarks before congress today Bernanke Sticks to Fed Line, But Offers Some New Hints [WSJ]. [2]

Some cooling of the housing market is to be expected and would not be inconsistent with continued solid growth of overall economic activity. However, given the substantial gains in house prices and the high levels of home construction activity over the past several years, prices and construction could decelerate more rapidly than currently seems likely. Slower growth in home equity, in turn, might lead households to boost their saving and trim their spending relative to current income by more than is now anticipated. To some extent, sizable increases in household wealth, as well as low interest rates, have contributed in recent years to the low level of personal saving. … Over the next few years, saving relative to income is likely to rise somewhat from its recent low level.

For a good post on his speech, go to econobrowser [3]

Bernanke basically indicated that he will continue to be an inflation hawk and may have to reign in a strengthening economy. He will watch over housing carefully, but it sounds like a few more rate increases are in store for us, which will likely mean slightly higher mortgage rates. There had been some speculation that the fed was done with its poloicy of measured growth. If the economy is indeed growing and getting stronger, then the Fed will raise rates to stem inflation, housing values may be impacted by rising mortgage rates and consumer spending could slow sharply, perhaps forcing the Fed to drop rates at a later date.

In Bernanke takes the stage [Chicago Tribune] [4], the reporter indicated that “Bernanke wound up defending Greenspan] for recent speeches the former Fed chief has made on economics in Tokyo and New York for a speaking fee reported to be as high as $125,000. In one instance, Greenspan’s reported remarks showing concern over the housing market had a brief impact on financial markets.”