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Did the Fed Blow It? The Critics Speak ...


While most investors and economists applauded the Federal Reserve's decision to hold interest rates steady, there were some critics who feel the central bank blundered by not cutting rates.

Citing lender bankruptcies, tightening credit and fears that the subprime mortgage mess will keep spreading, this vocal minority said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke needs to act soon to prevent a further slowdown in the economy. 

Here's a sampling of what the critics were telling CNBC.

Bill Gross, founder and CIO, PIMCO

The top bond-fund manager warns of a "highly restrictive" credit environment, whose impact on the U.S. economy may be "8.0 on the Richter scale."

He points to the static U.S. household survey of employment and July auto sales figures as "indicative of prior periods preceding recessions."

"The Fed needs to recognize that at 5.25% (federal funds rate), it's a restrictive rate, relative to a 4% to 5% nominal GDP world. ...Ultimately, they are going to have to cut," Gross said.

CNBC's Econ-Recon survey,

After the Fed's decision was announced Tuesday, CNBC did a snap poll of economists to get their take. While many supported keeping rates on hold, some were clearly disappointed.

Kurt Karl, Swiss Re: "Given the lack of liquidity in some markets and credit problems at large banks, I expected the Fed's statement to be more reassuring and drop the 'inflation concern.' Leaving the statement unchanged has increased the risk of recession."

Robert Froehlich, DWS Scudder: "The Fed is out of touch with reality and should be cutting rates right now!!!"

Click Here to Read Entire Survey Results

Mad Money Shot

Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money"

After ranting the week before that the Fed needed to cut rates immediately, Jim Cramer was a bit more subdued on Tuesday afternoon.

"We didn't get a rate cut, but it could have been worse," Cramer said. He believes a sense of relief drove the stock market rally after Bernanke's comments.

Individual traders "know how to play defense," he said, pointing to consumer-products companies such as Unilever.

But Cramer cautioned that in the current environment, "you've got to stay away from the 'crisis points': the banks, the home builders and the brokerages," he said. "You can sell them."

The Fed's Not Tight

Brian Wesbury, chief economist, First Trust Advisors

Like many economists, Wesbury thinks Bernanke did the right thing.

"There times when the Fed should step in" to help stabilize the markets, he conceded, pointing to 1987's one-day 22 percent drop in the stock market, and in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"But we've had a siren call when we should not have had one," he added, noting strong current job figures and corporate earnings.

Wesbury said that the problems in the U.S. economy are not due to overly high interest rates: "In fact, [rates] are quite low." The economist described what he sees as the real culprit: "Everyone expected the fed to bail them out, so they put too much leverage on. Now that that bailout's not happening, people are mad, worried, concerned -- but we've got to get that excess leverage out of the system."