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Time to Name the Policy Tools, Mr. Bernanke

Friday, 31 Aug 2012 | 9:26 AM ET
Ben Bernanke
Source: CNBC.com
Ben Bernanke

U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke: It's time to name the policy tools.

Mr. Bernanke may not unveil a third round of quantitative easing (QE) (learn more) today, but he better give some indication HOW the Federal Open Market Committee (learn more) will engage in further easing if and when it is necessary. Remember that Jackson Hole, Wyo., speech two years ago, when he signaled QE2? He said "that additional purchases of longer-term securities, should the FOMC choose to undertake them, would be effective in further easing financial conditions."

That certainly happened. More details like that is what is needed: A change in forward guidance, at least? Other than that, I would hope for more clarity on the economic outlook.

Elsewhere:

1) Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann has considered resigning to protest the European Central Bank's plan to buy sovereign debt. Remember Axel Weber resigned over the same issue. Not sure how big a deal this is, but it is a sign the Germans are split. Jorg Asmussen, the German member on the ECB board, appears to be backing Mario Draghi.

A German government spokesman says German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her support for Weidmann.

(Confronting the Crisis: Tune in all day Friday to CNBC for coverage on the Fed at Jackson Hole. )

In the long run, I think this does not mean much. In the short run, it will likely delay Spain's request for assistance. But they will ask, eventually. Another reason I bet the start of the European Financial Stability Facility/European Stability Mechanism bond-buying program will begin elsewhere — like Portugal. (Read More: Spain Establishes ‘Bad Bank’ to Shore Up Confidence.)

Once the Bernanke speech is digested, attendance — already thin — will get thinner. There is a bit of downside risk: The U.S. market is closed Monday for Labor Day, but all other markets will be open.

Don't kid yourself: Do all the jokes you want about the Europeans on vacation, but the entire European Central Bank (learn more) staff will likely be working over the weekend to flesh out more details on the bond-buying program.

Also: China’s PMIs will be out over the weekend, Europe's on Monday, and there will be a Eurogroup meeting on Spain and Greece on Monday.

Meanwhile:

1) Stop me if you've heard this before, but China's Shanghai Composite Index hit another new low. Nikkei dropped 1.6 percent, as well. (Read More: Complete Asian Market Coverage.)

2) Even with the S&P 500 index not far from four-year highs, AMG reports equity mutual funds (ex-exchange-traded funds) had outflows of $1.375 billion for the week.

3) Airline merger gets a little more real. The parent company of American Airlines, AMR Corp., and US Airways announce they have entered into a non-disclosure agreement. This means both company have agreed to exchange certain confidential information. US Airways has been discussing a potential merger with AMR since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. Shares of US Airways are up 5 percent pre-market on the news.

—By CNBC’s Bob Pisani

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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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