Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is poised to make what may be his most important speech to date on Friday, when he addresses the annual monetary policy symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyo.
CNBC's senior economics reporter Steve Liesman is stationed at Jackson Hole, offering the latest developments as they happen.
Here is a sampling of Liesman's reports, as well as economic insights from CNBC's expert guests.
Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor's, is confident that the Fed plans several rate cuts in months to come, including a quarter-point cut on Sept. 18, and an eventual whittling down to "about four and a half percent" by either the end of this year or the beginning of next.
"We believe the Fed wants to keep interest rates low, so when many of the adjustable-rate mortgages get reset, they'll get reset at more attractive values."
But Scott Wren, senior equity strategist, disagrees with Stovall -- and much of his colleagues. 'The last thing the Fed wants to do is tell the market it intends to bail out bad decisions by consumerts and businesses," Wren says.
"I don't think the Fed is going to cut rates on Sept. 18. Later in the year, [perhaps] they'll cut a quarter," Wren says.
Defining Solutions -- And Problems
In a four-way debate, CNBC on-air editor Rick Santelli says that traders are split over whether a rate cut is really necessary: Those in "nasty positions want a bit of a handout," while "the investor bystander" tends to ask, "Why should anyone expect irrational requests to be honored by the Fed?"
Santelli contends that Bernanke should "have his own timeline" for action -- and not be "bullied" into a premature cut.
Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC's "Kudlow and Co.", maintains that a rate cut is not a corporate bailout, as "CEOs don't want inflation either." He believes the Fed "made a mistake two weeks ago when they ignored what was going on in the credit markets."
Alan Murray, executive editor at The Wall Street Journal, says that Bernanke is not ignoring the credit crunch, but differentiating between short-term problems and long-term "real threats" to the economy.
But Liesman believes that diluting focus may be the real problem. The only question that matters is "whether [Bernanke] steps up to the plate" on Friday and gives the markets his definitive outlook on the economy -- and specifies his intentions.
Crunching The Numbers
Shawn Tully, editor-at-large at Fortune magazine, points to the second-quarter GDP report and its "very modest" growth in checking-account deposits as proof that monetary policy has been very restrictive of late. "Perhaps inflationary expectations are dropping," he says, which gives the Fed latitude to act.
Tully says a key concern is the size of the inevitable rate cuts: "Twenty-five to 50 basis points could be confidence-building, healthy...but three-quarters of a [percentage] point could lead to a roller-coaster cycle."
Liesman advises viewers not to expect instant investment wisdom based on bernanke's speech, but to digest the data carefully and play "the reaction function."