NZ Herald business editor at large

Liam Dann: Has Bernanke made the right call?


Has US Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke made the right call? Let's hope so.

He surprised everyone today, effectively declaring that the US economy still needs life support and that he will keep monetary policy settings at the stimulatory levels put in place after the global financial.

His message was clear - markets have gotten ahead of themselves in predicting a return to normal policy settings and he wants to see things really humming before he starts pulling back - or tapering, to use the current buzz word.

That is a big call for all of us. The US dollar immediately fell. The New Zealand rose and will now likely stay higher for longer.

That's bad news for our exporters, who have been looking forward to a higher US and lower kiwi after years of dealing the reverse. But for many kiwi consumer it is good news. Great news if you're going on holiday obviously. But the higher kiwi also means imports will stay cheap for longer. I should be good news at the petrol pump.

Oil prices have already eased as the threat of military action in Syria fades the currency movement will give prices another kick in the right direction.

This all helps keep New Zealand inflation subdued for longer.

It might be a long bow given the many complex factors at play - not least the Auckland housing bubble - but lower inflation and a higher kiwi may weigh on our own Reserve Bank and shift the time frame for raising rates - which was signalled in the last monetary policy statement.

The US Fed's decision will certainly be factored in to Graeme Wheeler's equations.

Stepping back though, there is room for some nagging concern about whether Bernanke has made the right call for the world.

Hindsight tells us that Bernanke's predecessor Alan Greenspan left US rates too low for too long in the early 2000s after the dot-com crash. That easy credit environment played a big role in causing the US housing bubble that sparked the Global Financial Crisis in the first place.

Bernanke will be highly aware of that of course. He's done the math and decided that the US economy is not yet well. One would hope he hasn't been swayed by internal political pressures. If the US economy does suddenly take off he may have to move faster and more dramatically to keep it under control. That could mean greater market turmoil later.

It is in the end a very big judgement call - for the US and the world.

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NZ Herald business editor at large

Liam Dann is business editor at large at the New Zealand Herald. He has been a journalist for 20 years, covering business for the last 14 of them. He has also worked in the banking sector in London and travelled extensively. His passion is for Markets and Economics, because they are the engine of the New Zealand economy. He hosts The Economy Hub video show every Thursday.

Read more by Liam Dann

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