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Stimulus: To Infinity, and Beyond

Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012 | 4:52 PM ET
Ben Bernanke
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Ben Bernanke

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's presser: He started his press conference with stocks just off the highs of the day, but ended at the lows.

Persistent questions on the "fiscal cliff" — and Bernanke's comments that "As I've said many times, I don't think the Federal Reserve has the tools to offset that event," may have been a factor in the decline.

And what about that 6.5 percent unemployment rate the Fed has specifically targeted? No one knows when that will be met, and Bernanke said it does not imply a change in the time frame to keep rates low until 2015.

(Read More: Fed to Keep Easing, Sets Target for Rates)


Regardless, some feel that goal could come a lot sooner than 2015, and that has some nervous. Breaching the threshold will not automatically trigger a rate hike, but some are clearly nervous that the goal may be a little closer than others think.

Stimulus: to infinity, and beyond. That's Ben Bernanke, not in "Toy Story," but at the FOMC meeting today.

Today's actions by the Fed may be helpful, short-term, for stocks and commodities, but the bond market is signalling nervousness over inflation.

Bond yields up (closing at session highs), dollar down.

There are two important developments from the Fed:

  1. An asset purchase program ($85 billion a month) which will continue until there is a substantial improvement in the labor market; and
  2. A rate guidance program that is supposed to provide information on when the FOMC would consider ending its low interest rate policy. Rates will remain low "at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored."

The first requirement...unemployment above 6.5 percent ... is a solid target. But the other requirement is not...when do we expect to see 2.5 percent inflation?

Not clear, but it's obvious the Fed is less concerned with inflation than improving the labor market.

(Read More: Here Are the Stocks Everyone Googled in 2012)

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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