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Will Bernanke's Briefings Be Like Trichet's?

Should we congratulate or commiserate? ..... That the Federal Resereve does it too now. That the Fed has decided to flank its policy decisions by regular press briefings from now on.

Jean-Claude Trichet
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images
Jean-Claude Trichet

Oh, definitely congratulate, you say? - Less opaqueness from sparse statements, less oracle-ing over three-line policy decision and what exactly they might mean for the future.

Regular press briefings with the hitherto inaccessible "Big Ben" (Bernanke), the ample opportunity for probing, inquisitive questions from the assembled press - that's just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.

More clarity for the markets and welcome visibility on the general outline and strategy of monetary policy strategy.

Well, let's put it this way: not if the European Central Bank (ECB) press briefings are anything to go by! Probing and inquisitive questions from the assembled expert press have little done little to dispel the opacity of statements from Ben's counterpart at the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet.

"JC" is an expert in deftly side-stepping "probing and inquisitive" questions.

And don't I - and many a long-suffering ECB watcher - know it! More likely that the oracle-ing will remain, only the ways of interpreting a hermetic monetary language will be shifting.

"How often has he mentioned inflation?" .... "Has he moved from vigilance to strong vigilance?" .... And: "How exactly did he phrase his answer to the question ... 'The markets are pricing in two more rate hikes this year. Are they wrong?'"

Maybe J-C will give his "friend Ben" (as Trichet refers to his US counterpart) a few pointers as to how best side-step probing landmines laid out by the assembled press. But my guess is he doesn't need any advice on THAT. Because, if anything, "big Ben" has always been accused of being the master of opacity up to now.

So don't hold your breath for more clarity and visibility on Fed monetary strategy! Likely that won't come. But one thing is very clear: The decision to face the press with regular briefing has come because the Fed is facing more scathing criticism from home and abroad.

And "going public" is part of a marketing effort, maybe aimed more at appeasing US politicians than international markets. If it can and will be more than just that, only the future will tell.

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