You are here: Home Latest News February Market Update

February Market Update

Steve Cain, Director – Writer/Editor

Bye-bye, Ben.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stepped down on Friday, January 31,

Steve Cain

 after eight years on the job serving under two presidents. His tenure as Chairman was tumultuous and controversial. He took the reins of the Fed from Alan Greenspan during the height of the housing boom of the mid-2000s. But, within a couple of years, that boom turned into the biggest bust since the Great Depression, thanks to the popping of the housing bubble and the complex financial products used (and grossly abused) to sell mortgage-backed bonds to buyers who didn’t really know what they were purchasing.
Bernanke’s actions subsequent to that bust were both bold and, in many cases, unprecedented as he aggressively moved to restore confidence in a financial system that seemed briefly to be on the verge of collapse.
Depending on who you talk to, Bernanke either almost single-handedly saved the United States and World economies from destruction in the dark days after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of international credit markets; or, he wantonly debased the value of the U.S. economy, needlessly and recklessly stepping in with billions of tax-payer dollars to bail out a bunch of cowboy speculators and, in so doing, creating conditions that many still predict must inevitably lead to massive inflation and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar.
The story of the economy is never finished and inflation could yet take hold. But Bernanke’s legacy at this juncture in history looks pretty good. The much-feared and long-predicted inflation never materialized despite the massive investment by the Fed in asset purchases, some of dubious quality, all designed to provide stability and liquidity to financial markets that were badly in need of both.
Under Chairman Bernanke, the power and reach of the Federal Reserve was expanded as never before. His intervention in the economy included cutting short-term rates to near zero, where they remain today. But cutting rates, the traditional tool of the Fed, proved insufficient to cure the economy of its ills in so virulent a downturn. Bernanke’s answer was to extend the protection of the Fed to institutions never before under the Fed’s umbrella, accepting collateral from these institutions of dubious value. When this still proved insufficient, Bernanke started his program of Quantitative Easing, buying billions of Treasury Bonds each month to keep long-term rates and borrowing costs low.
These actions were at least partly due to the stalemate in Washington as the warring parties made it almost impossible to get economic stimulus legislation passed. Still, many observers were very uncomfortable with the extraordinary measures carried out under Bernanke’s tenure to jump-start and support the U.S. economy.
Like him or not, he now passes into history. Bernanke passes the torch to Janet Yellen, who will be the first female Chairman in the Federal Reserve’s history. Ms. Yellen looks likely to maintain many of Mr. Bernanke’s policies, at least for the time-being. However, Ms. Yellen will need to begin the delicate task of removing some of the support the Fed has long given to financial markets as economic strength continues to return and unemployment continues to fall.


Got questions?

Send us an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call at (773) 491-1235.




  • PO BOX 608492, Chicago, IL 60660
  • (773) 491-1235