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What to Expect From Bernanke at First Fed News Conference

Ben Bernanke
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Ben Bernanke

Two economists think Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's first news conference next Wednesday will allow him to limit any market volatility after the Fed releases its monetary policy statement earlier that day.

"He has to be responsive to how the market reacts to the statement and how he guides that response in the way that he wants it," Rick Matus, a UBS senior economist, told CNBC Thursday.

"He needs to know going into that press conference what the market got wrong at 12:30 (p.m., when the statement is released) and where he wants the market to end at 3 (p.m.)."

The April 27 news conference, the first in the Federal Reserve's history, begins at 2:15 p.m. ET when the quarterly forecast from the Federal Open Markets Committee is issued. Bernanke then makes an opening statement followed by questions for the next 45 minutes or so.

Matus said the event will provide more clarity on what the Fed thinks.

"People talk about transparency and clarity as if they’re the same thing," Matus said. "What we have now is plenty of transparency. We have no clarity. If Bernanke can provide us with more insight into where the Fed is actually headed, that’ll be a positive."

Columbia University economics professor Frederic Mishkin, a former Fed governor, agreed. "What we’ve been having happen so far is 17 people all over the map discussing things," he said of the Fed governors.

Frederick Mishkin
Frederick Mishkin

"The issue is governance. All these people speaking has been a real problem," particularly at a time when the Fed has been under strong attack in Congress and by the public.

Calling Bernanke a "really smart guy" who conducted press conferences during his pre-Fed jobs, Mishkin is not concerned the sometimes chaotic spontaneity will fluster the Fed chief into contradictions, setting off volatility in the markets.

"The chairman is the one who gets off the mark first" at the press conference, he said, although the FOMC statement is still a document "where everybody doesn’t just parse every word but every syllable."

Mishkin and Matus agreed the Fed's current bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, will end in June as scheduled and won't be renewed.

Matus added he sees "a rate-hike cycle in early 2012."


Watch CNBC's live coverage of the Fed interest rate decision and Bernanke's news conference in a special report, Wednesday April 27, Noon-3:30pm ET.

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