World's biggest wimp: Fed's Bernanke

Jeff Brown, Special to
Ben Bernanke
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Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.

The 'incredibly wimpy' banker to the world


And the great taper is ... well, coming ... sometime later. The Federal Open Market Committee concluded at the end of today's meeting that the economy is just not strong enough to justify reducing the Fed's $85 billion bond-buying program. Bond yields fell and stocks and commodities—gold in particular—jumped, with the Dow and S&P 500 hitting record highs.


"The Committee remains concerned that, without sufficient policy accommodation, economic growth might not be strong enough to generate sustained improvement in labor market conditions."
—FOMC statement

"This is incredibly wimpy."
—David Kelly, chief market strategist at Morgan Stanley

Eight years of Ben: By the numbers


Need some details to back up the Fed on the so-so—at best—economy? The Fed certainly doesn't offer much, saying economic conditions don't merit the taper, the data "standard" for the taper hasn't been met, without saying what that standard is, exactly—though unemployment is a big part of it.

Here is something tangible to go on that relates to the Fed but doesn't come directly from its analysis: Annual GDP growth has not exceeded 3 percent during any of the nearly eight years of Ben Bernanke's tenure as chairman; unemployment is 7.3 percent, down from 8.1 percent a year ago, but largely because of the lowest worker participation rate in 35 years. Inflation is about 2 percent. Wages are nearly flat.


"Wealth disparity has reached its widest chasm since 1928, the year before the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began."
—CNBC's Jeff Cox

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The moribund middle class


That lackluster economic growth has weighed heavily on the middle class. New Census Bureau figures show shows median household income, at $51,017, essentially unchanged from 2012. The good news, if you want to call it that, is the median didn't fall, as it did in 2010 and 2011. With inflation considered, median income is at the 1996 level.


"There is a sense that in middle-income America … they've been treading water for 15 years."
—Richard Fry, a senior economist at Pew Research Center.

The new iPhone 5S with fingerprint technology is displayed during an Apple product announcement.
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Putting a finger on the new iPhone


Meanwhile, back to the really important things in life: Apple shares were up—something they haven't been lately—as good reviews started to roll in for its newest phone.

The fingerprinting-recognition and new operating system seemed to be the highlights for most gadget gurus, but what will the future look like now that there are so many dazzling smartphones on the market? Some experts, even those giving the newest iPhone a thumbs-up, say the days of the blockbuster unveiling are waning.


"Maybe the age of annual megaleaps is over. ... It's a terrific phone. The price is right. It will sell like hotcakes ... [But] just sheathing last year's phone in shiny plastic isn't a stunning advance."
New York Times reviewer David Pogue

A man bids on a piece of art at Sotheby's.
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Going once? ... Too big to fail memorabilia


Would you like to own a piece of the Great Recession? A will be auctioned from the Long Island mansion of Joseph Gregory, who was once the president of Lehman Brothers and bragged that he spent $15 million a year on personal stuff.

How about a painting of grapes by some Dutch guy named Bartholomeus Assteyn? It could be yours for $60,000 to $80,000, according to the Sotheby's auction estimate. It coincides with this week's five-year anniversary of the Lehman bankruptcy, which, in case you've been away from the planet, triggered the financial crisis.


"After many wonderful years designing, decorating and collecting for the house, the Gregorys are moving to a new chapter of their lives, with new projects and a focus on their own charitable organization."
—Sotheby's auction catalog.

—By Jeff Brown, Special to